CUPCAKES!

 “You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”

Matthew chapter 12, verses 34 thru 37; from The Message (Msg)

Cupcakes! We are living in a world of cupcakes! No, not the kind one sees at parties! It’s people I’m talking about. When I was young, I often wondered why “old people” were always so. . .so blunt. They didn’t mince or sugar-coat their words. And now that I’m old, I understand. As I get older I know that my time here is getting shorter and shorter. Thus, my opportunities to speak the truth are becoming fewer and fewer. I realize that I just don’t have the time to draw pictures to explain the things that are really important. It seems my ability and talent to be snarky has come into full bloom. I define snarky as a mixture of satire with a heavy dose of sarcasm. But here’s the thing–I don’t use it very often. Some may say otherwise, but they’re wrong. I refrain from using my snarky more times than Carter has little pills. (You have to be from the south to know what that phrase means!)

My previous post brought out my snarkiness. And as snarky tends to do, I offended at least one person. (click here to see the post) Someone thought my insights worthy of passing along to several people via email. And I am humbled they thought so. Apparently one of the recipients did not like my blunt honesty. And had this to say about my post: It’s insulting and immature to speak to grown people who can think and decide for them self. To point I think it’s low class to say suck it up buttercup.”

Allow me the kindness to pull out one part of that comment for further reflection: It’s insulting and immature to speak to grown people who can think and decide for them self.” Yes, people can think and decide for themselves. Got no problem with that premise. Our problem as a church, culture, and society is HOW people think. I.E.–people are all to quick and easy to be offended–especially with The Truth. It goes beyond the insane concept of political correctness. It’s rooted in how people respond. And the United Methodist Institution is an excellent case study.

People are so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings that it has become more important to be nice than it is to be truthful. Somehow it has become mean and ugly and hateful to be truthful; that somehow if we disagree with someone that we can’t and don’t love them. Where did this idea come from? I KNOW! I KNOW! From the heart and mind of Satan! Yes, Virginia, there is a Satan even if you think there isn’t. Nowadays the only way you can love someone is to approve, bless, and sanctify how they think. And if you can’t–well you are just plain ol’ mean and insulting.

I sigh a deep sigh when I think that it’s more important to make people feel good than it is to be truthful. Did you notice how Jesus responded in the passage I opened with this morning? You have minds like a snake pit! Did I miss something here? If Jesus said that today, people would demand an apology from Jesus! And IF Jesus was present like He was then, then by their views, Jesus should have said afterwards: “Oh, I’m so very sorry I offended you. And so that you can feel better about yourself, I renounce those words and I agree with you. Feel better now? Good! Here’s you a cupcake.

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What’s Your Synergy?

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians chapter 3 verse 14 from the New Living Translation

Think about this: Energy produces synergy; and synergy produces energy! Perhaps I should take a step back and share the definition of synergy: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Maybe I’m the only one this morning thinking about that word synergy. But YOU, think about it. Synergy is producing the energy that keeps your house with light, a/c, and such going. Think about hydroelectic energy. Water flows throw a turbine, the turbine spins against that thingy, and electricity happens. Or think about your vehicle. The gas (or diesel as the case may be) in the fuel tank is drawn up to the engine–then that computer kicks in pulling all the components together–and off you go to wherever. Remove just one part of these processes and the energy ceases to exist. What does this have to do with The Kingdom Life? Good question! Great question!!!

There is a synergy in every person; it comes from seeking and wanting life as they want it to be. That’s the point: Wanting life as they want it to be. They know they can’t get there by themselves so they seek other sources to cooperate with them to that goal. That energy forms synergy and that synergy forms more energy. When it comes to the human life and human heart, where we seek cooperation or help matters. For that source ultimately determines success or failure.

Some are seeking cooperation with the world’s value system; allowing the world to tell them what they need. It might be money, power, fame, or even sex. We see this synergy happening within my beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church. Many believe that the Bible needs to be changed–or at least how we see the Bible–so that some might achieve what they believe will give them life. Cooperating with the latest pop psychology, the latest cultural trends is what many in our leadership believes will produce that synergy and energy that will reduce decades of decline.

The synergy that will produce the energy for the life we are created for is as Paul declared in today’s passage: through Christ! The synergy is found as we cooperate with Him through The Bible and with The Holy Spirit. For this synergy to work we must cooperate with God. You see, God doesn’t cooperate with us. He works ON us; IN us; and THROUGH us–never, never does He COOPERATE WITH us. WE cooperate with HIM! HE shows us what we need to achieve real and abundant life. And it’s all found in The Bible. But we also need the Presence and the Power of The Holy Spirit! Without The Spirit we end up with the form, but it’s void of the substance.

So, if you are finding your life missing some things–maybe even void of life–then do what Paul did–develop the synergy by cooperating WITH HIM that creates the energy which in turn produces the life, the ONLY life that fills us with peace, joy, and hope. And so much more. So VERY much more.

WHERE’S THE CONNECTION?

Connections are important; very important! For example, if one is building a house it needs electricity, right? What if the electrician only ran the wire to the junction boxes but never connect the plugs and switches to the wire? Or, considering our current drought here, what if we ran some garden hoses to water the yard, flowers, or garden but never connected those hoses to a water faucet?

Connections are also essential for what today is being called “The Church”. Interestingly, in the beginning followers of Jesus weren’t called “The Church”; it was The Koinonia! It’s a Greek word that means a life that is shared together with commitment to each other and to our Lord, Jesus Christ! Connection is also an important word to us of the Wesleyan Family. But. . .what is it that needs to connect us? Alas, the answer to this question is what has broken my beloved Tribe and created this current hot mess in The United Methodist Church.

For our more progressive sisters and brothers, our connection is that God loves everyone. Sounds innocuous enough. How would we, or anyone, have hope without that unconditional Agape Love? But for our progressive sisters and brothers, this Agape Love means that if someone feels they need to live outside God’s Sexual Ethic (man/husband and woman/wife), then that’s perfectly OK. This belief and conviction they hold is framed around an unproven concept–that God created some of us to be gay, binary, or some other gender that our plumbing contradicts. Progressives want us who are convinced that The Koinonia is framed around The Truth of God’s Word (found in the Bible) to ignore The Truth and embrace this “new” understanding of human nature.

So, for the progressives, this situation and moment is framed around the LBGTQI community. But is it really? As I guide the two congregations I serve through this season of discernment, I am very clear to these congregations that our discussions are not to be about the LBGTQI community. And I refuse to be “in charge” of this season. I am not leading them to stay or to leave. Their decision isn’t about me, it’s all about the vision, ministry, and mission of these congregations; about where they can live faithfully to the God who has saved us and is calling us in His Mission!

So, what will we frame our future around? Progressives believe our connection is love. Us Orthodox folks believe our connectionion is The Truth. Consider what Paul told the Corinthian Koinonia as we frame our future:

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

2 Corinthians chapter 6, verses 14 and 15 from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition

Now, Progressives will quickly say, “Hey! I’m a believer, too! You’ve taken Paul completely out of context. That doesn’t fit our situation!” But have I? Framing a connection outside of The Truth is like framing a house without nails or screws. It simply cannot stand. Read again the latter part of verse 14: For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?” Light and darkness do not, can not have a connection. It’s either one or the other.

My friends in the United Methodist Church–this is our moment to frame our future. What I am about to write will get me kicked out of the circle of fundamentalists–but I’m saying it anyway! I am strongly opposed to any discrimination against LBGTQI persons in the secular places. They should not be discriminated in the workplace–nor in their Constitutional Rights. If they want to be “legally” married, I will defend their right to do so. But I will not perform the ceremony. Besides, in Alabama all one needs is a notary public to sign and to put their seal on a document; if your state laws do not allow this, then all a person has to do is get online, fill out a form, and become qualified. You see, I’m this weirdo who doesn’t mix up or confuse my patriotism to my Walk with Jesus.

And while this should be allowed (not to be discriminated against) in our legal system, it does not mean that it should be OK in The Koinonia! Trying to frame our Connection around accepting any sexuality outside of The Biblical Ethic, just doesn’t work. It hasn’t ever worked. Nor will it ever work! So, if you want a better future, make sure your frame that future around the Unchanging Truth Of God’s Word. You see, there is NO Connection between right living and wrong living.

WHERE DO WE GET OUR FREEDOM FROM?

Well, here we are at another Fourth of July, or as they call it in Great Britain–Traitors Day. For my readers across the pond, it was when our founding fathers declared they and future generations would no longer be under the rule of England; now they would choose their own future. We also call it Independence Day. And that’s prompting today’s verbage flowing out of my mind and heart. The first thing I thought about in the dark, early hours of this morning is that question: Where do we get our freedom from? In the middle of all the cookouts, celebrations, and fireworks of today, our nation is a hot mess. Understandment, right?

And I have reached another conclusion about why we are in a hot mess in the good old U.S. of A. It comes from the theme of today: Freedom! Hard to believe or even think that freedom is one of the major causes of our hot mess. Nonetheless, it is! Some think their freedom comes from pursuing their desires. Just to have the freedom to go after their deepest, event darkest, desires. Well, prisons are full of those who pursued their desires. Families are torn apart by those who used freedom to pursue their desires. Many of the homeless are on the streets because of those desires. Homes and vehicles are repossed all because of desires.

Some think their freedom comes from their feelings, especially in the realm of sexuality. If they could just be free to be who they feel like being. There is gender identity chaos and confusion everywhere; all because of feelings. And those who seek freedom through their feelings believe that everyone else needs to affirm and promote that they are right in their feelings. That’s how seeking freedom through feelings works. But this kind of thinking serves only to enslave the person.

Still others think that freedom comes through the government. Fundamentalists confuse being followers of Jesus with being followers of the U.S. Constitution; treating the two as if they were one. Not only goofy fundamentalists think this way, so do many others. Just look at some of the reactions to the recent SCOTUS Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision where they corrected the error of Roe v. Wade (which by the way, isn’t about abortion–but about the Fourth and Tenth Amendments). If history has taught us anything (and it’s obvious that a lot of folks haven’t learned anything from history) is that we cannot count on any government to provide us freedom.

These and so many other fruitless and futile attempts to find and establish freedom are rooted in an unrecognized fallacy: “This is true!” What is “true” may not be The Truth! Feelings a person or group possesses are indeed true to them and in them. But they may not be The Truth. What is true is subject to our feelings, beliefs, and convictions. And way too many are living by what is true; all the while ignoring The Truth.

The Truth is unchanging. It was true that it was once believed that when a person was sick that they needed to let out that bad blood. It was true that it was once believed that mental illness was a psychological problem, not a biological problem. It was true that it was once believed that slavery was acceptable. It was true that it was once believed women were property, not persons. My point is clear–what is true is not the same as The Truth.

The Truth has a name–Jesus! Jesus proclaimed it in John’s Gospel, chapter 8 and verse 32: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The Truth is that God has established a way to live that works in every place, every situation, every person, and all the time. That way to live is found in The Bible. God was overseeing the process of the canonization of books and letters to make sure that when they are all put together–they clearly reveal The Truth. And to be free, to live every moment in freedom, all it takes is our surrender to The Truth. Nothing is more liberating that to be a slave and servant to our Heavenly Father! Now, that’s true Freedom that will never, ever change. It works even when governments are oppressive–and the culture calls it crazy!

DEBITS AND CREDITS!

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Romans chapter 13 verse 8 from the New International Version

I think it was my sophomore year in high school when I signed up for “Bookkeeping”! Oh, I had no intention nor desire to become an accountant. But I needed one more class to fill my schedule–so there I was. Remember, this was back in the day of this thing called paper! I did learn, unwillingly I might add, about these books called ledgers. What I mainly remember about ledgers is two specific columns–debits and credits. Debits was the money coming in and credits was the money going out. And this morning I found myself thinking about those ledgers–and, of course–debits and credits. Oh? You need a connection between my thoughts and the Kingdom Life? OK, here goes!

We live in a time and culture where so very many people want to be entertained. They feel that life owes them something–in accounting terms that’s a debit. And they are teaching their kids the very same errant principle. I mean, look at how many kids are “playing”–if you can even call it that–with a phone or tablet. The desire to be entertained doesn’t add value to our life. On the contrary, it takes away from our life–in accounting terms that’s a credit! The desire to be entertained is everywhere–in homes, communities, at work, and yes, even at church! If we are not entertained we look somewhere else to be entertained.

But this is not the way to live–at least according to our Creator. God inspired Paul to write the aforementioned passage. Why? Because as His Creation, we are not the consumers of life–we are to be the producers of life. The attitude and demonic spirit of consumerism devalues life and takes away its worth. It treats people and blessings as our personal slaves that is owed to us because–well–because we are alive. The desire to be entertained is pure and unadulterated laziness! And it never leaves us satisfied and content. Why? Because this is simply NOT our purpose.

Our purpose is to add value to life and to people. And the way we add life is by loving people. Yes, Virginia, even those who are the most unlovable! But remember–love isn’t a feeling. Love is an action verb! Love reveals itself through the attitude of action! We cannot see feelings or emotions. I can’t see a feeling–but show me action and I understand! While “feeling” love makes the one “feeling” it feel a little bit better–it does nothing for others. And it really does nothing to add value to our life. And in steps The Kingdom Of God–not with a better way to add value to life–but the ONLY way to add value to life–both ours and all the people around us. Here’s our true purpose in life:

18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.

1 John chapter 3 verses 18 and 19 from the New Living Translation

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….Love God with all your heart. Love other the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

bless my mess and sanctify my stuff and i will be ok! not!!!!!

Calling this a crazy world out there doesn’t do justice to describing our current culture. Crazy doesn’t come close to describing the malady of our times. When you look at the development of civilization the most imediate thing that is clearly in focus is that even the most primitive civilizations recognize that there exists some “higher being”–A.K.A. a “god”. This is a powerful acknowledgement–to realize there is “someone” out there with more power and wisdom than us punny human beings. And thanks to The Bible–yes, that outdated and irrelevant book for our times–we know that the ONLY “higher being” is God–or using His name that He revealed to Moses–Yahweh!

The Bible reveals to us seven indesputable, ironclad, unassailable, and undeniable facts about Him and ourselves. And here they are:

  1. We ain’t that God! Many an empire has fallen into dust because their king wrongly believed they were a “god”. Check out history as it actually happened, not the revisionists version.
  2. God doesn’t need us to improve upon Himself, or help Him out! God doesn’t need our approval nor even our validation to exist. And He certainly doesn’t need our help when it comes to what is right and what is wrong.
  3. We human beings are messed up and we can’t fix ourselves! I mean, if we could fix ourselves then why even need God? Yet throughout the history of civilization we see human beings doing this very thing–and without success. Look, if human beings could fix themselves, then why is civilization (if you want to call it that) today so messed up? The philosophy of liberalism that emerged in the 1950’s believed we had what it takes to straighten up this world. And even changing their name to “Progressives” hasn’t fixed one problem. If you doubt me on this, just read Facebook!
  4. Though we are all screwed up, only God has the remedy for us! We call this Grace! We don’t deserve to be redeemed. We can’t earn His redemption. It’s free for us–but on God’s terms, not ours.
  5. We must admit we are fallen, messed-up, screwed-up sinners! We call this “confession”. Confession doesn’t mean writing down every sin we’ve ever committed. Confession is the Admission that I Am A Sinner! Maybe that’s exactly why so many are tearing out so many pages from their “Bibles”. We don’t want to admit that we’re broken, and if we do admit it, then we want to fix outselves. One way that’s being promoted today is to embrace our brokenness and simply ask God to bless our mess and sanctify our stuff. Rather than BEING JUSTIFIED, so many want to JUSTIFY their mess and stuff. They call it their “feelings”. So, since God is love, all one needs to do is love God and love others–then God will approve of their mess and stuff. Then Voilà! They are no longer a sinner! And those who believe to the contrary are simply mean and ugly!
  6. We need to turn away and go in the exact opposite direction! We call this repentance! And it comes from and through the acknowledgement of the truth that we’re a mess. When we truly allow God’s love into our hearts, then the desire to stop sinning rises up within us. Without the desire to give up sin–there is no repentance. And though our redemption is free–it never becomes the power we need for becoming that New Creation until we desire to give up our old life.
  7. And God will forgive and redeem us when we come to Him on HIS terms, not ours! God isn’t a negotiator. And He certainly isn’t a car salesman where we can give and take in order to come to a deal. But in His Mercy and Grace, He will transform us from a mess into a message. Read what John wrote in 1 John chapter 1, verses 8 through 10: “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—He won’t let us down; He’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” (from The Message)

God will never let us down when we come to Him on His terms, and not our terms. And His terms are simple and straightforward: Unconditional Surrender! Unconditional surrender doesn’t mean we become slaves to Him. It means we become His Sons and Daughters, Princes and Princesses! After all, that’s why we were created–to become just like Him!

SEEKING BUT IT’S STILL HIDDEN!

 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Matthew chapter 6 verse 33 from the New Living Translation

Ever heard the expression, “There’s a storm on the horizon!”? I’m no meteriologist, but I’m telling you it’s NOT on the horizon–but it’s already upon us. It’s all around us and it ripping our culture into unrecognizable pieces! And it ain’t going away anytime soon! It’s a Category 12 hurricane, an F-22 tornado, and a tsunami mashed up together and it’s destroying the human race. Contrary to the view from the left–it’s not global warming! Excuse me, the term is now climate change (I guess it’s because the polar caps aren’t melting as fast as they claimed).

The Storm is all about Truth–rather that distinct and discernable ABSENCE of THE Truth! Truth has been relegated and demoted to how one feels and thinks. Even the science of biology has been defrocked and dishonored by those who say gender is determined by feelings. “Holy Cow, Batman! What are we going to do now?” Great question, Robin! What device or weapon does Batman have on his Bat Belt that will get rid of this Storm? But alas, poor Yorick, no such device exists. But. . .could it be there is still hope for our culture? If you listen to churchians and tenured pew sitters the answer is a resounding NO! But they ain’t worth listening to! They are just like politicians running for election or re-election–full of des conneries!

People are trying in vain to seek truth–and more they seek? Well, the more miserable they become! Instead of giving up the fruitless and pointless search through what they think and feel–they persist! They are looking for a life filled with purpose and meaning. But their thinking and feeling keeps that PEACE hidden. And anyone who offers a different opinion? Well, they are called mean, ugly, and if it’s Kingdom People talking–they are full of hate. And it’s all because of The Truth!

There is a solution–a path forward–that will dissipate this calamitous Storm. It’s so simple that most folks cannot see it so they trip right over it. It’s child’s play, really! All it requires is our embrace and commitment to the above words of Jesus! SEEK GOD’S KINGDOM AND WHAT HE SAYS IS RIGHT FIRST! And to seek God’s Kingdom and what HE says is right–we all have to begin with this single thought: “I may be wrong about what I think and what I feel!” And while our culture keeps right on seeking but never finding, WE, who are unashamed and unafraid to be called Disciple of Jesus, Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God, (notice, I didn’t mention the word “church”) must become and BE examples of what it means to Seek and Find what is hidden to so many. And that, my friends, is The Truth.

Remember that old TV series “The X-Files”? There is a line that is famous from the show. “The truth is out there,” says Scully, before following up with “but so are lies”.  Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

TAKING WHAT’S NOT MEANT FOR YOU!

IT’S NOT MEANT FOR YOU!

We love watching birds; and we don’t have to leave our home to watch them. We have bird feeders and we even scatter some seeds on the ground for them. We also have a suet feeder. Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and few others love it, especially since we found this apple flavored one. And when it’s empty, Woody (one of the woodpeckers) let’s us know when it’s empty. Lately we’ve been going out in the morning to watch Woody, but the feeder has been empty. I know Woodpeckers are not nocturnal, but other critters are–such as Raccoons. And this morning Ricky Raccoon and I came face to face! So, today I will purchase a live trap, just for Ricky, hopefully catch him and relocate him far, far, away.

And what do birdfeeders, suet feeders, and Raccoons have to do with the Kingdom Life? Well, here goes! Often times, as human beings, we see things that are not meant for us–but still we go after them, just like Ricky. We see nothing wrong. We see no danger. Besides, it “tastes” good! So, that makes it OK! Right? Not hardly. That extramarital affair; using others to promote yourself; keeping that extra change the cashier gave you; wanting that new car because your neighbor just got a new car; leaving your server a measely 5% tip, especially on Sundays; putting your hope in political parties. These are just a very small sampling of things that are not meant for us. And hold on to your hat for the next line: Whether you are a Follower of Jesus or not, these kind of things are not meant for you–that is–if you really want to enjoy the gift of everyday life!

Wanting what’s not meant for us is where the trouble all started–in the Garden of Eden. Remember, it was Satan (who is also known as the father of all lies) who successfully convinced Adam and Eve that they could become their own gods. And the downward spiral began–and the joy of life disappeared! Our Creator, God, designed a way for us to enjoy life to the max! But sin–and sin is very, very real–takes it away from us. Just yesterday afternoon while working in our garden, I was reminded of the curse placed on Adam–that thorns and weeds would infest our gardens. Paul reminded the Thessalonians (and thus a warning to us) in First Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 19 through 22

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

(from The Message)

And what determines what has been tainted with evil? The Bible, of course! As much as we may desire certain things; as much as we believe certain things are right though it contradicts the Bible–they were not meant for us. And when we get “caught” in that trap? Unlike Ricky who will have no choice but to relocate–we do have a choice.

On the other hand, if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 

1 John chapter 1 verse 9 from The Message

So quit going after what’s never been meant for you! And. . .Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

BOOTS!

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This morning The Spirit has me thinking about boots.  To be more specific, the first pair of boots I bought—and the several pairs thereafter.  I was looking primarily at the price point.  Oh, I saw all those others, but I was focused on the price.  That was my focus—forget how they looked.  And forget how they felt on my feet.  Then—then I discovered Ariats®.  The comfort and durability of those boots were amazing.  I could have bought 3 pair of those other boots for the price of that first pair.  Now I have 3 pairs of Ariats.

I have a “Sunday Go To Meeting” pair, an everyday pair, and a pair of hiking boots for those rare occasions when it’s a little cold here in Alabama.  Normally, I refuse to pay high prices for anything!  But we found a great source for boots (and clothes) on one of our semi-annual trips to Florida.  Between Montgomery and Troy, Alabama is a place called Sikes and Kohn.  This was where I discovered the comfort of Ariats® and at a price I could afford!

On our most recent return from Florida I told Debbie that I needed a new pair of everyday boots.  I’ve been wearing my everyday pair for over 7 years.  Though they were still comfortable—still I needed a new pair.  So we stopped.  As I was looking through the Ariats® I noticed another brand, Twisted X®.  A couple of our grandsons wear them, so I gave them a try.  Finding a style I liked (remember, I’m going after comfort AND style, not price), I walked up and down the aisle, and loved them.  So I paid the very reasonable price for them. (see the above picture!)  Now I have 2 brands of boots to choose from.  Sweet!

What does all my rambling about the price, style, and comfort of boots have to do with The Kingdom Life?  Simple!  So many today are seeking what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace”.  Here’s a man who knows the difference between “cheap grace” and “real grace”.  Bonhoeffer was hanged April 9, 1945 in a Nazi concentration camp at Flossenbürg.  It wasn’t long after that the camp was liberated by Ally Forces.  Here’s what Bonhoeffer has to say about “cheap grace”.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And we see so much of this today.  If I wanted to wear a pair of boots that was comfortable and in a style that looked good, then I had to give up the cheap bargain rack.  And if we want to experience the peace and power of Christ living in us, then we have to abandon the cheap bargain rack.  To be a “Christian”, or as I prefer to say, “a real disciple and follower of Jesus”, then we have to come to Jesus on His terms.  Cheap grace cheapens what Jesus did for us in His suffering and on that Cross.

Cheap grace, like cheap boots, may be affordable, but it fails to deliver the life our heart longs for, and the life Jesus died to provide for us sinners.  Remember, Bonhoeffer died not for cheap grace—but for real grace.  Yes, Jesus paid the full price for our sins.  But if we are going to follow Him and learn from HIM, then we have to also pay a price.  And it’s this:

23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way (that’s cheap grace), take up your cross DAILY, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 

Luke chapter 9, verses 23 and 24 from the New Living Translation

So, love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!  And cheap grace does not bring Him glory!

RIPPING APART AT THE SEEMS!

The fabric of our culture is being ripped apart at the seems. And please don’t call the Grammar Police that I have used the wrong word. It’s the correct word. I wrote what I meant and I meant what I wrote. SEEMS! Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. the fabric of our society is being ripped to shreads at the seems. I came upon this thought through remembering a certain passage from The Bible. In fact, it’s been roaming around in my gray matter for several days. Here is is:

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Proverbs chapter 14 verse 12 from the New Living Translation

Some might think it’s amazing that a book as old as Proverbs can be so relevant to these times. But it’s not really amazing to me. These books of The Bible continue to be both timeless and timely. But let’s get back to those seems. Consider this:

  • It seems right to the LBGTQI culture that if society just accepted them, they would be happy.
  • It seems right to the gay community that if they could just get married like any heterosexual couple they would be happy.
  • It seems right to the project manager since their assistant is so capable to let them do all the work and they take all the credit.
  • It seems right that since that other person is so good looking, that a night in the sack is OK.
  • It seems right that if they child shows up for the games they should get a participation trophy.
  • It seems right that since they have a college degree they should start at the top.
  • It seems right that since that drug helps take away their stress they should reach for it.
  • It seems right that since a child would impede their lifestyle and goals, an abortion is the right choice.
  • It seems right that the government should be responsible for us from craddle to grave.
  • It seems right that if someone doesn’t agree with you that they must then hate you.
  • It seems right ad nauseam…

Now before you Tenured Pew Sitters finish saying, “Amen! You tell them Preacherman!” Let’s look at our church culture.

  • It seems right that Jesus should just come back and take us good ones on to our reward, since this world will never change.
  • It seems right that if the church could just go back to the good old days, we could stop the hemorrhaging members and doors closing.
  • It seems right that if their church started catering to them, then all the problems would go away in their church.
  • It seems right the church’s sole job is to point out the sins of others.
  • It seems right that everyone in their church should dress a certain way, think a certain way, and believe a certain way.
  • It seems right that the church should only help those who deserve it.
  • It seems right that they should only sing the songs they like.
  • It seems right ad nauseam…

It seems that many, too many people, are living by the seems–and life is ripping apart at the seems. And then Proverbs Chapter 14 Verse 12 proves itself to be absolutely true. What seems to be true is proven false by life itself. And things begin to rip apart, at the seems. This is life without God–life without Jesus as BOTH Savior AND Lord. Contrary to the opinion of alleged experts, we are simply not qualified, and certainly not capable, of determining what is right and what is wrong.

But there is an alternative and it’s the only one who will keep our lives from falling apart at the seems. It’s really simple and easy–that is–if we can get over ourselves. We find it in another book of The Bible. It’s in Matthew chapter 11, verses 28 and 29:

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

from the New Living Translation

The word yoke doesn’t refer to the kind worn by oxen and mules. It’s about the Teaching Of The Rabbi. Back then what Rabbis taught was called The Yoke. And if you think the teaching of Jesus is too hard and difficult (because He did say: Be holy as I Am holy), read these words again. But this time from a different Translation:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

from The Message

Be and become whom God made you to be and become, and NOT what seems right to you. You and our society will be and become something so much better. Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

IF A CLUTTERED DESK IS THE SIGN OF A CLUTTERED MIND, WHAT’S THE SIGN OF AN EMPTY DESK?

Never in a thousand centuries would I have imagined that I would remember anything from one of Dr. Well’s Old Testament class at Birmingham-Southern. Well, it’s not from his class–it was the sign on his office desk: If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what’s the sign of an empty desk? Well, his desk was the epitome of cluttered. But I am not judging him–you should see my workspace! On second thought–you shouldn’t! And this morning I found myself thinking about all the cluttered thinking seen in our culture.

For example, recently a young man choose to carjack someone–who happened to be armed. The young man was shot and killed, and a family member stated on the local news that the driver shouldn’t have shot him and should be arrested for murder. Cluttered Thinking. Parents are allowing, even encouraging adolesent children choose their gender rather than allowing biology to do what it does. Cluttered Thinking.

And in my own Tribe (the United Methodist Church), this year our governing Conference of United Methodists from around the world are to convene and the biggest issue is deciding that it’s time to depart ways–it’s called The Protocol For Separation. It’s been postponed since 2020 because of this COVID mess. But travel from foreign countries is being allowed if the traveler has been vaccinated. Well, in some regions, limited funds have prevented people from being vaccinated. In order to enable UMC delegates from other nations to attend this General Conference, an orthodox group of United Methodists began a plan to vaccinate those delegates–without regard to how they stand on the Protocol issue.

Good thing, right? But our more progressive kinfolk are outraged by this act of kindness. Their thinking says, “No one should be vaccinated until everyone can be vaccinated!” See, cluttered thinking! Why all of this cluttered thinking in every arena of life? Because there is no single standard for The Truth! Everyone is encouraged to choose “their” truth! Without an absolute Truth, human thinking remains cluttered–and it will only get worse! It’s like roadside litter–if someone or some group doesn’t clean it up–it only gets worse.

What I can’t understand is why those with cluttered thinking cannot see the devastation and destruction they are creating and encouraging! It’s like they are saying, “OK, it’s a mess right now–but if we just keep on thinking our way, then eventually we will figure it out!” God’s Word alone–not our interpretations of it–but God’s Word alone must be The Absolute when it comes to how we think. If our thinking is contrary to God’s Word, meaning The Bible, we need to change OUR thinking–NOT what the Bible teaches! To declutter the mind–we need to do a personal inventory on our thinking–and anything that contradicts The Bible needs to be thrown away. I leave you with this thought:

If we allow The Bible to speak to us, rather than us speaking for The Bible, we will be liberated from the clutter of our times.

IT’S OPEN SEASON!

Sitting this morning in the darkness just before the dawn, I had this thought: Open Season! I’m not talking about hunting or fishing or trapping. It’s that assault on the very things that have kept our nation and society safe and strong. I think the term is called cancel culture. Revisionists who do not like truth have always sought to rewrite history to promote their own personal preferred future; even though that preferred future is frought with dangers and ultimate disaster.

Cancel culture is not only attacking in an open season style against individuals –but the values and ethos that have consistently proven to be favorable for a stronger nation and culture. Cancel culture is fighting tooth and nail against the highest ideas and deepest morals that are challenging to follow–but they build up people, families, institutions, and the world as a whole. Alas, cancel culture refuses to see it and so have declared open season and war on the tried and true.

And it is a war–a war against kindness, goodness, courtesy, respect, decency, determination, and so much more. And whenever there is a war–there is an aftermath and it’s ugly. Battlefield memorials are indeed pristine–but in those moments when the bullets and bombs are flying, it’s ugly devastation. So what are we, the bullseye for cancel culture, to do? Well, we have three choices–but only one of them will turn the tide of the battle.

First, we can just throw up the white flag of surrender–leaving the battlefield in our rear view mirror. This choice declares that it’s a fight not just worth fighting–so retreat to our preppers hideout and bemoan about the good old days. This is a pathetic choice. Second choice is that we viciously counter-attack the people who have been deceived by this cancel culture. Make them hurt as badly as we are hurting! An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! This only creates more casualties and it is a poor choice.

Third choice is to stay with the battleplan. Yes, God knew this battle would happen. He’s prepared for it. And He has the perfect plan–and we need to trust that plan. Soldiers who don’t trust their leaders, make poor soldiers. You can trust God’s plan–so stay in the battle and follow His battleplan. Oh? Who just asked, “Well, Preacherman, what’s that plan?” Whoever that was, thanks for asking this question. Here’s the plan–Right out of God’s Battle Manual:

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Romans 12:21

Taking one on the chin for the team and being passive isn’t the plan. Our weapons for conquering evil–and thus this cancel culture–is to do good–just like Jesus did. Sure, His doing good led to that cruel Roman Cross–but that was all part of God’s battle strategy. He knew death would lead to Resurrection! So stop bemoaning what cancel culture is doing and start doing good! Be kind! Be gracious! Be merciful! Be helpful! Be friendly! Hold a door open for someone! Call that frazzled server by their firstname! Smile at those who are being hateful and ugly! Jesus is not a revolutionary–He is a Counter-Revolutionary. Tend to the wounds of those fighting with you. Ask for support when you need it. But never give up the fight! Jesus didn’t when He was on the Cross, and He didn’t when He was in the Tomb!

Going Unnoticed!

image from Power Thesaurus

This morning I am going to be cooking! Not on the grill or smoker–in the kitchen! And it’s not for dinner nor is it for supper. Well. . .unless you like indigenous leaves, plants, and dirt. Yep! That’s what I will be cooking this morning! I will bring the ingredients to a rolling boil, then turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for about 25 minutes. I will strain it into a jar, and then–the excitement begins in just 7 days!

Why am I getting excited? What’s the purpose of such a concoction? What am I talking about? The Why is gun season for deer hunting begins next Saturday. The purpose is to help me be successful in my hunting–meaning meat in the freezer. The Why is the necessity of being Unnoticed by the deer. Deer have a keen sense of smell. They can smell something out of place before they see it. For years I’ve spent good money on this product call odor neutralizers in hopes that the deer don’t smell my presence. The thing about these odor neutralizers is I can’t tell if they are working.

A good friend of mine told me about some dryer sheets that leave an earthy scent on your clothes. And with a little research on my part (and some deep thinking on my part), I discovered I didn’t need to purchase such a product–I can make my own. I will gather up some local vegetation as well as a good scoop of good old dirt–put them in a pot–let those aromas seep into that rainwater–and then pretreat my hunting clothes so that the aroma around me doesn’t attract the attention of those deer. My chances of a successful hunt rise exponentially if they don’t hear me, see me, or smell me. I need to be unnoticed! And what does all this have to do with the Kingdom Life? Glad you asked that question–because I have an answer–and an important point to make this morning.

While being unnoticed by the deer is essential for a successful hunt–being unnoticed as a follower of Jesus is a recipe for disaster. Going to a football game, you need a program so you can know who the players are. But nowadays–when it comes to being Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God–it’s hard to recognize which players are on which team.

The western church, particularly in the U.S. has been attempting, and I might add successfully, to blend in with the culture. The resulting calamity is that in many places the church has gone unnoticed. Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters, and Aggressive Progressives have successfully sought a path to being unnoticed by the culture. It is no longer seen as a threat to the temporary Emporer of this world. Satan is no longer threatened–and so he is free to roam about, taking countless lives into an eternity of hopelessness.

But this methodology of being unnoticed fails to make this world–and the people who compose this world–any better. It’s a train wreck! Therefore I challenge each and every deeply committed follower of Jesus to become noticeable! Not my ranting and raving! But by becoming the model of the heart, mind, and Spirit of Jesus. Sure, standing out in this culture can make one feel uneasy. But following Jesus isn’t meant to make you feel easy and comfortable. It IS meant to make you noticeable in a good way. The chaos and frenzy that is all around us needs something different. It needs to see Jesus in YOU! The REAL Jesus, who is always radically different from the rest of the world, MUST be seen in you. As I go to gather my concoction, I leave you with these words:

 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

How Much?

How Much? If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know me: I got questions! Lots of them! Not only am I afflicted with random thoughts–but I am blessed with an inquisitive, call it DNA. I know that some of my questions are a bit on the side of trifling, if not smack dab in the middle of the absurd. But not all of them! Case in point; today’s question: How much?

Customarily this question is asked in the marketplace, yard sales, and flea markets. “How much for that set of tires?” “How much for that necklace?” “How much for that table?” “How much do you want for the truck?” A shallow look at such questions doesn’t mean that the questioner wants to know How Much. What she or he really means is How Little Will It Take For THAT To Be Mine? Forget the manufacturer’s suggested retail price--HOW LITTLE will it cost me to make that mine! But let’s take that question out of the marketplace, yard sales, and flea market. Let’s put it into more important places!

How Much to be a citizen of the good old U.S. of A.? It costs you determination to overcome obstacles. It costs you the time and energy to be productive and add value to our nation and communities. It requires you to do your very best at work without slacking off or whining. It costs you to freely show kindness and courtesy to others. It costs you appreciation for those who protect and ensure your freedoms. It costs you to put the needs of the whole ahead of your own needs. Sometimes it even costs you your comfort by making personal sacrifices. What? Freedom isn’t free? Nope, buttercup, it’s not! Let’s go further with this question:

How Much to live in my neighborhood or community? To start, it costs you getting to know your neighbors. It costs you being helpful to your neighbors. It costs you giving up any prejudices you may be holding. And remember that prejudice isn’t about the color of a person’s skin–it’s about making judgments without knowing all of the facts. It costs you time and effort to make your neighborhood or community a better place. It costs you the willingness to care what’s happening–in the neighborhood or in another person’s life. This list can go on and on; but I will stop with one more query:

How Much does it cost to have inner peace and a higher purpose for your life? That’s not 2 questions; it’s just one. You can’t have inner peace without a higher purpose and you cannot live out that higher purpose without peace. Back to my opening statement. People are far more wanting to give just a little rather than what it really costs. They think the price is too high–but it’s not! Ever heard the expression “You get out of something what you put into it!”? That may be true–but not really! When time, effort, and personal sacrifice are put into a life that really matters and satisfies–it gives us back far more. Inner peace and that higher purpose doesn’t just land in our laps–it happens only when we seek and pursue The Right Kind Of Life!

Our peace and our true purpose comes at a great price. The Good News is the largest part of that price–the part we could never afford nor have the means to pay–has already been paid for, and it’s offered to us in this amazing thing called Grace! Being Grace, means we don’t have to pay for it–nor earn it. Think about these words and then apply them to every part of your life:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Philippians 2:5-8 (The Message)

But remember my earlier comment that freedom isn’t free? Peace and our true purpose–and God’s offer of this gift–does cost us something. Just as Jesus made this Sacrifice for us–we also need to make a sacrifice to Him! And this sacrifice isn’t about earning that gift or deserving that gift. It’s about the only way to respond to God’s offer. So, How Much does it cost us? How Much does inner peace and living out our true purpose cost? Surrender! Give up our way of thinking and think the way Jesus thinks. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but it works. Stop following the path of How Little and start pursuing life as God intended all along. And don’t focus or worry about How Much such a pursuit costs–simply enjoy the contentment that comes from walking with Jesus!

What’s Your Motto?

  • Just Do It
  • A Diamond is Forever
  • When you care enough to send the very best
  • I’d walk a mile for a Camel
  • Quality never goes out of style
  • Finger Lickin’ Good
  • With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good
  • Snap, Crackle and Pop!
  • So easy, a caveman can do it
  • The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection
  • The Ultimate Driving Machine
  • The Quicker Picker Upper
  • We Bring Good Things to Life
  • The King of Beers
  • Fly the friendly skies
  • Because You’re Worth It
  • Let’s Go Places
  • Have It Your Way
  • I’m Lovin’ It
  • Betcha can’t eat just one!
  • When it rains, it pours
  • Taste the Rainbow
  • What Happens Here, Stays Here
  • When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight

Mottos! Yep! That’s what’s stirring up my gray matter this morning. When it comes to advertising–a great motto helps consumers to remember their product. So, what is YOUR motto? To help you tell me yours, I’ll tell you one of mine: “If you don’t like my sarcasm, don’t ask me stupid questions!”

Even our good old U.S. of A. has a motto: In God We Trust! The thing about mottos is that you gotta back it up–otherwise people just ignore or forget it. Unfortunately, with my aforementioned motto–I back it up with a healthy, sometimes an over-abundance of sarcasm. But that motto on all our currency? That thing about Trust In God? Not a good motto in these times–because it’s not backed up with action.

Before you start ranting and raving about the nefarious cesspool otherwise known as Washington D.C., know I’m not talking about that ash heap. This morning I am talking only to those who self-identify as Christian. I still remember decades ago getting emails about how Madeline O’Hare was going to the Supreme Court in an attempt to get In God We Trust removed from our currency. Now, I would have bought a plane ticket to see that, seeing she had been dead for years!

Christians want it on our currency–but it would be far better for them, for our nation, and for our world if it was just removed from the currency! There, I said it! But before you stop reading this morning’s pensiveness, read what is next. It would be far better for us, for our nation, and for our world if you have a motto that you embody with your attitudes, words, thoughts, and actions.

Yes! we need to Trust In God That’s a no-brainer! But more than saying we need to Trust In God, we need a motto that shows how much we Trust In God! Forget putting it on currency and government seals. Let’s put a new motto on our ordinary, going here and there, doing this and that life. And maybe it’s time I, too, changed my personal motto to one that better suits what God is doing in my life. So, what should it be, America? Hey! I have an idea. What about this one?

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

If we adopt this as our motto it means we would have to stop looking at political parties, the hollow (and I do mean hollow, not hallowed! I said what I meant, and I meant what I said!) halls of academia, and even ourselves in order to see a real transformation in our times; and really live through the strength of Jesus! How strong is Jesus? He carried the weight of all our sins while hanging on the Cross. And somehow, as strange as it may sound to some, I believe Jesus will strengthen us to be a light that brings hope to the hopeless. Call me crazy! You won’t be the first, and I dare say, you won’t be the last!

HELP WANTED: Signs Of The Times

Help wanted sign in front of store front

Snarky! The dictionary defines snarky as “having a rudely critical tone or manner“. I prefer my own definition of snarky: “it’s the combination of a lot of common sense and frustration fueled by the stupidity of others.” For some snarky is an ability; for others it’s a gift. I have been doubly blessed with both the ability and gift of snarkiness. This is also a curse because I have to fight the battle every day to use it at the most inappropriate moments. Most days I manage to keep Snarky locked up in the closet. But this morning Snarky is banging on that door, begging to be let out. And I can’t keep it locked up. So fasten your seatbelts, it may be a bumpy flight.

There was a season when the signs outside a business said things like: Clearance Sale! Buy One Get One! Inventory Liquidation! Mattresses 50% Off! Going Out Of Business! But do you know the most frequent sign seen today in front of businesses? HELP WANTED! Some are even offering sign on bonuses. What’s happened? Has the pool of available employees been abducted by an armada of UFOs? Nope! And thus Snarky has a message today.

So many people do today not want to WORK! Every day I see a boatload of people who appear able to work, but they aren’t! Those who do show up only want a paycheck. Earning that paycheck for them is as foreign as reading and properly pronunciate the Classical Greek language. The concept of hard work is anathema and they are having no part of it! It’s like 3 day old chewing gum–they find it tasteless.

Why? Why? Why? Would you believe I have some theories kindly given to me by Snarky? One reason is PARENTS! Every day I see some snooty-nosed kid with a $50,000 truck with $3,000 rims and tires, and the front end jacked-up. How do high school kids afford it? They don’t! Daddy and/or Momma wants them to have it, not earn it! I don’t know if they do it out of love or whatever reason. It’s not love giving someone whatever they want. Doing such harms them and takes away from their potential.

Another reason Snarky gives me is the U.S. Government. They reward people for doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Instead of giving incentives to become productive citizens, they hand out money as quick as their intaglio printer can spit it out. I’ve heard people laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic say, “I can earn almost or even as much staying at home as I did working.” Now tell me, WHERE IN THE NAME OF GOD’S CREATION DOES THAT ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO WORK? Sorry for the yelling; I momentarily lost control of Snarky.

So what can be done? Well, parents can shut off the muck of showering their love for those kids with money and trying to make it easy for their kids. Life ain’t easy–but it can be very good! I always told my kids: You can work hard, or you can work smart! I still remember to this day back in 1992 at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. My son had just finished Basic Training, and one of the first things he said to me was: Dad, you were right! He may not remember it, but Dad sure does. Parents, teach your kids that work, even hard work, isn’t a curse–it’s an opportunity to grow and improve yourself.

Government can turn off those intaglio presses and remind everyone that nothing important, significant, or valuable is ever achieved without both determination and hard work. This may well be the thing least likely to happened. It seems our government was us to depend on THEM! Seems to me, back in the 1770’s this was one of the things that the King of England wanted–in addition they want money from those who actually worked so they would not have to work.

Finally, for those of us who understand the value of hard work, let’s doing something different. Instead of complaining about all those people sitting at home doing nothing or shopping at WalMart with their government incentives to do nothing when there are all these HELP WANTED signs–we create opportunities for teaching moments. If you’re always telling how useless they are they will not embrace those teaching moments. We need to re-teach people that there is no shame in applying themselves and that hard work is not a curse or a sin. Excuse me, I need to shove Snarky back in the closet!

Name That Druthers!

Lots of money or great looks? Unhappy CEO or happy sales clerk? Car or truck? Big mansion or cabin in the mountains? To be feared or liked? To be revered or loved? Sports car or pick-up truck? New vehicle or customized hot rod? Communism, socialism, or representative democracy? Smokin’ hot body or inner peace? To have others wait on you hand and foot or help others? The red one or blue one? Swimming pool or hot tub? I’d druther have the hot tub!

Perhaps in other parts of the world the word “druthers” isn’t often used. But here in the South, it often helps determine if you are really Southern or just a “wanna be”. Druthers are not necessarily a bad thing. For example, “I druther have some rain than this dusty dry condition.” Or, “I druther not have to go through another hurricane or tornado.” Or even, “I druther my car’s air conditioner work than having to keep all the windows rolled down.” The Druthers can inspire to us dream and work hard to achieve those dreams.

But there is another side to the druthers; one we all need to fend off. It’s the druthers of discontentment with life as it happens. It happens when we believe that life is unfair and unreasonable. It happens because we think that life owes us. It happens when we want an easy and comfortable life. It happens when someone has something we don’t have, that we think we deserve. It happens when we look for things to make us more than happy–but fulfilled and content. Can we be honest with each other? Our culture is running on empty and about to collapse because so many want their druthers rather than fulfillment and contentment.

Unfortunately, these same pursuers of druthers cannot see, will not see–there is a better way of life. You see, even IF we get our druthers, sooner or later (usually sooner) something else catches our eyes and we desire another druther; then another and another and another! Get the point? But what’s the alternative? And here is where so many get it wrong–oh, so wrong! They resign to misery and despair. But what if–WHAT IF I say–there is another alternative that will never leave you in discontentment, misery, and despair? Would you be interested in knowing what that is?

Here it is: Surrender and submit your moments, your each and every moment to Jesus! Druthers will never give you what Jesus gives us when we follow God’s Plan for our life. God isn’t interested in taking away the joy and fun of life. God is interested in keeping your from the discontentment, misery, and despair that marks and mars so many lives. He does this by giving us the life we are created to have–a life than doesn’t depend on our DRUTHERS–but lives within His grace and mercy–which is His Love. Things you love cannot love you back. But God–well, His love is always there–even when we can’t get our druthers!

Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. 

Philippians 4:11-13 (The Message)

By the way, that mansion and fancy car? They have a lot of maintenance needs. But Jesus gives us everything we need–maybe not our druthers–but always what we need!

The Rich Lighter Life!

I have no clue as to what you are thinking about today’s Title: The Rich Lighter Life! Maybe you thought about a gold plated with diamonds Zippo lighter. Nope, that’s not it. Unless you are from the country, you may not know what Rich Lighter is. Well, I’m from the country. In fact, a friend posted one of those “tests” to see how “country” you are. Out of a possible high score of 30, I scored 28. I could have scored 29 but I have never touched an electric fence. I’m not as dumb as I act.

As you may know now, Debbie and I are on our annual spiritual retreat to the Smoky Mountains. We rent a cabin for a week and only venture out once, twice at the most. The remainder of our time is spent here in this cabin. This particular cabin has a wood burning fire place. Being winter and all, I decide to pack some fire wood to enjoy the fireplace. You know that to have a fire in the fire place, one needs something to start the fire. I could have cheated and went to WalMart and purchased those neat little fire starters. But remember, I’m a country boy.

Before we left I went just to the edge of the woods surrounding our home and found some Rich Lighter. Researching for this post I discovered that some call it Fatwood. When a pine tree is either cut or is knocked over when it is alive, it is filled with sap. The sap, or resin if you prefer, trapped in the stump becomes hard over time. This sap contains  terpene, a volatile hydrocarbon. I know you are not wanting a lesson in organic chemistry, so I will get to the point.

This hardened resin is very flammable. With just a small handful of Rich Lighter, one can easily start a fire. I put some newspaper in the fireplace, added my Rich Lighter, then the kindling and the wood and lit the newspaper. The picture above is the results of my endeavors. And to show you how little it takes, the picture below is how much I used. The Alabama Crimson Tide mug is symbolic of the power of Rich Lighter:

The Holy Spirit prompted me to do some thinking about Rich Lighter and fire places. The question many folks are asking, especially “church folks” is, “What is it going to take to change our churches, our communities, our nation, our world? Things are out of control!” It’s a great question to ask–IF–you are willing to dig deep for the answer. Asking the question in the expectation of someone else answering it is futile, ineffective, and fruitless. Nothing CAN change unless one knows the answer–and I found the answer in a handful of Rich Lighter.

What’s the answer to this “burning” question? YOU! That’s right, YOU! You may be thinking, probably ARE thinking, “How can I change what’s happening in Washington D.C.? How can I end domestic violence? How can I feed all those hungry families? How can I get people to listen and respect each other? How can I keep our church from closing its doors? How can I help people imprisoned by addictions? How can I do this in a way that really makes a difference? It’s really simple, folks. Remember my handful of Rich Lighter.

Just as a roaring fire can happen in a fireplace with just a handful of Rich Lighter, people, places, and situations change–just one person at a time. And YOU are the person that will start that Fire that will bring lasting change. It’s just that simple–not easy–but simple. Decades ago Kirk Kaiser wrote a song that I still sing today. The name of it is Pass It On. The first time I heard it was in 1971. It was a Sunday night Youth Service. I knew God was calling me into a relationship with Him. But I fought it off by holding on to the oak pew in front of me. I held on so tight I know that my fingerprints are permanently embedded in that pew at Green’s Chapel. That’s what it took for me to resist God’s Grace. And I succeeded. But, a little over a year later, in not so dramatic a moment, I finally surrendered to His Grace. And as the saying goes, “The Rest Is History!”

If you have the Holy Spirit inside you, (you do if Jesus is your Lord and Savior), that Fire is more than enough to start the process of transformation in people, places, and situations. Just as Rich Lighter easily ignites and spreads its fire to other wood, YOU can spread the Fire that will make the difference. But changing the world will never happen as long as you expect someone else to answer the question. I leave you with two songs–one is for me because I am a country boy–the second one is for YOU, Just listen to it:

Double Down–Monday Musings 10 January 2020

When playing blackjack, there’s a certain set of conditions when you want to “double down”; or so I’m told. The reason is to have an opportunity to double your winnings, or so I’m told. Today’s Monday Musing is about doubling down but not at the blackjack table–but in one’s spiritual life. Now here’s the passage I’m looking at this evening–James 3:10–12

10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

The context of these words of James is about our words. And I would never take Brother James out of context. But. . .there is a principle that is also present. Principles work in every situation. The Principle that Brother James applies to the “tongue” is verse 12. It’s a basic principle from nature: Something designed to produce only one thing, cannot produce something different.

Yet, there are many today who have forgotten this most basic Principle. So they have doubled down and actually think it works. We are seeing a culture of people who are trying to navigate life by doubling down. Unlike in blackjack where there are certain card combinations you would NEVER double down on, there are those who double down with the wrong “cards”. They live and operate with a double heart and a double mind.

They do this by mixing Biblical Truths with Cultural Values, with Cultural Values being the “Wild Card” that overrides Biblical Truths. They embrace their Cultural Value and then find a Bible verse to support it. And the verses that don’t support that Cultural Value–they either find an excuse why the Bible is wrong, or they simply ignore it altogether.

Truth is you cannot follow Jesus by trying to align the Bible with Cultural Values. Remember Brother James’ Principle: Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. You simply cannot align Biblical Truth with some Cultural Values. But you can do this: You can transform Cultural Values by faithfully living by Biblical Truths. You can try to Double Down with Cultural Values AND Biblical Truth–but The House will win every time, and you will lose.

You Can Pine, You Can Whine, Or You Can Shine!

This morning my inspiration came from Terry Teykl (check him out here). It was yesterday’s email that I finally got around to reading this morning. He said, well, just let me Control C and Control V (that’s “copy and paste”): “Jesus was crucified between two thieves, one on each side of him. Today, we also live with the possibility of two thieves taking their place on each side of us.  One thief is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow.  Both of these thieves steal from us and stop us from living in the present. But gratitude is an antidote to their thievery.”

When we allow the chaotic culture that is inundating us to hold our attention, then Terry’s 2 thieves get on each side of us; and the results are annihilating any sense or hope of being Kingdom People. You’ve seen it: people who are pining day after day for what use to be. Then there are those whining that the future is hopeless. Two thieves who taunt us into submission. And we, who should be That Different Voice, have pined and whined our way into The Enemy’s Camp. Trust me on this one, The Enemy takes great joy when those who should be following Jesus allow the thieves to steal our purpose.

I propose to you today that there is a third option. Instead of pining and whining why not start Shining? Supposedly the British author Charles Dickens once said that in America we have it all mixed up. He said, “Use that one day just for complaining and griping. Use the other 364 days to thank God for the many blessings he has showered upon you.” Sound advice, even if he is from across the pond.

What better way to counter the culture than choosing to be grateful! Read and listen carefully to what Paul wrote:

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Paul didn’t say to be thankful for, but be thankful in! Think you don’t have anything to be thankful for? Check out Joe’s story! He was pampered and spoiled by his daddy. He was daddy’s favorite and he loved to brag about it. But one day his brothers threw him in a hole, took his prized coat, covered it with blood to pretend he had been dragged off by a wild animal, and then sold Arrogant Joe into slavery. If that wasn’t bad enough he was sold again in a country where he didn’t know their language. He managed to rise up only to be lied about and thrown into prison. If that wasn’t bad enough, he helped a fellow prisoner who said he wouldn’t forget Joe–but he did; for 2 years he forgot all about Joe.

Joe could have pined for the days when he was his daddy’s favorite son with all the perks it brought. Joe could have whined about his situation in that Egyptian prison–which was not much more than the hole his brothers pushed him into. Two thieves on each side of Joe; but Joe did not choose to pine or whine. He made the conscious choice to Shine! All those bad times really did to Joe was sand off his arrogance and taught him the importance of Godly Character.

And when Joe could have exacted revenge on those brothers–he didn’t listen to Pining and he ignored Whining. Here’s what he said:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

I love how The Message renders it: “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people.” Joseph was not thankful for the pit or the prison or the injustice. Joseph was thankful that God was busy at work redeeming all the bad in order to bring out The Shine!

Don’t let those treacherous thieves called Pining and Whining steal your life. Do what Paul said, Be thankful! So today, go out there and be thankful. When you’re thankful you can’t help but be joyful, kind and helpful. It will make you Shine like the sun; better yet–Shine Like The Son! God is working for good in your life and mine–even if we are unjustly thrown in prison like Joseph. And if that’s not enough to cause you to desire Gratitude in this day–do it anyway because it will annoy the stew out of the piners and whiners. I’d call that a great day!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him–and it will when you choose GRATITUDE!

Enough Is Enough!

After my first cup of coffee and morning worship music, I begin my morning devotions. The first one I always read is from J.D. Walt. (You can find it at https://www.seedbed.com/daily-text/ ). This morning’s title was Are You a “For” Person or an “Against” Person? (You can CLICK HERE to read it). Here is the first paragraph:

Let me ask it another way. What are you for? Many people (if not most) cannot answer this question with any sufficient or satisfying detail. Over the course of life and time, people slowly become cynical about their ideals, hopes, and aspirations (and even their faith) and wind up becoming more defined by what they oppose than what they are for.

J.D. Walt (Seedbed Daily Text)

And immediately, this thought hit me hard: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

ENOUGH of being ugly towards other people. ENOUGH of the negative comments about this, that or the other. ENOUGH pointing the finger of blame at this person or that group. People, HEAR ME! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

The time has come for us as Followers of Jesus to become known for what we are FOR rather than what, especially WHO we are AGAINST. I’ve seen and heard too much of it already. And, I shamefully confess before you the reader, I’ve been guilty of this!

THEREFORE I resolve to immediate resign from the “I’m Against Committee”. But this isn’t enough. I resolve to be, in J.D.’s words, a FOR PERSON. Here are some of the things I am FOR:

  • First, and foremost, I am FOR Jesus and I will reveal this through my thoughts, attitudes, words and actions.
  • I am FOR kindness and compassion.
  • I am FOR helping people any way I can, regardless if they “deserve” it or not.
  • I am FOR saying and doing things that builds up others rather than tear them down.
  • I am FOR seeing the beauty around me, especially in the chaos around me.
  • I am FOR being grateful for everything I have.
  • I am FOR being both sincere and authentic, warts and all.
  • I am FOR holding the door open for others.
  • I am FOR listening to others with all my attention.
  • I am FOR forgiving others regardless of the offence or depth of the wound.

I could keep going on and on, and you would give up reading my list of what I am FOR. So let me leave you with Paul’s thoughts about what to be FOR.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

And be sure you love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

Captain, That’s Not Logical!

(image from http://www.npr.com)

I grew up watching Star Trek (the real and original one, bad acting and all). I’ve seen all the Star Trek movies, original cast of course; after all, I am a purist. Mr. Spock has always been my favorite character. His love AND insistence on Logic and the Logical course of action was the mark of his character. I think what drew me in to this character of Logic Based Decisions was the people surrounding him. Jim. Scotty. Dr. McCoy, aka, Bones. If ever there was a trio of Illogical characters, that trio embodied it. Thus, the conflict between Logical Spock and the Illogical Trio.

And these random thoughts got me to thinking about our current state of affairs–as a nation and as a church. And that is the form of Logic being used today. The trending Logic of today is driven by. . . what always drives Logic: The Current Attitudes, Values and Morals. Attitudes are how we interpret life. Values are how we distinguish between the important and not important. Morals are conclusions on what is right and what wrong; what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

The news outlets, political parties, analysts, noisy leaders, even church leaders, are using a Logic based on their Attitudes, Values and Morals. I think even Mr. Spock would say:

And that is The Problem. But those of us of operate out of the realm of Common Sense Logic are left wanting to scream and pull out our hair. And trust me on this one, I don’t have much hair to pull out; I’m trying to keep what little I have. But seriously, there are times I want to grab some people by the collar and give them a good old Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap on the back of the head. But. . . that would be, in the words of Spock:

The Logic of today is to argue, be hateful, condescending and plain ol’ ugly towards people who’s Logic is different. The results are deepening alienation from each other; and this is not how God designed life for us. We are created to live TOGETHER, working along side Him in discovering and tending to His Creation. The current state of Logic is ripping apart the fabric of society–and destroying countless lives.

As just one example of many, consider the number of suicides found within the LBGTQ community. The church has NOT helped them; and in my Logic if you are not helping, then you are hurting. I will NOT go as far as my progressive friends and say the high rate of suicide is the sole fault of the church. But face it–we have treated them at times badly, very badly. But even then, they have a choice in how they receive and react to the bad treatment. Here’s a bit of Side Bar Wisdom: Even if you think you don’t have a choice, THAT IS your choice.

When I say the church has done harm, it is because of the choice of words directed toward the LBGTQ community. You may say, “But Preacherman, it’s a sin–an abomination to the Lord.” So they choose ugly words and direct them towards gay people. But there are other things that are also abominations to God:

Oh, you think you haven’t done anything that’s an abomination to the Lord? Ever told a lie, even an alleged “little white lie”? Never sowed discord?

Well, I am about to chase some rabbits so I need to get back on point. The current Logic doesn’t work. It sets us up for failure. To change our Logic we need to change our, what? Attitudes, Values And Morals. Align them with God. I know, I know, all of God’s Logic contradicts human Logic. And that’s a good thing.

The Attitude of God is that we are all messed up somewhere, but there is still within all of us His Image–so He treats us with Graciousness and Mercy.

The Values of God is that we are so important to Him, that He wants us to be delivered and set free to become the person HE knows is within us–the person who reflects His Glory.

The Morals of God–what He knows is right or wrong, is what He longs to implant within us through the Holy Spirit.

Does all of this contradict the Logic of our world?

Our Logic isn’t working. Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. Maybe Mr. Spock is on to something. . .but God is definitely on to something–something great:

It’s really logical to Love God With All Your Heart. Love Others The Way Jesus Loves You. And Make Sure All The Glory Goes To Him.

I Choose Persistence

(Picture from lionessesofafrica.com)

Tuesday I made my choice to be joyful. Wednesday I chose to be joyful and hopeful. Yesterday my choice was to be joyful, hopeful and focused. Was I 100% true to my choices? Honestly? Not 100%. . .but I was close to 90% true. Maybe it was that steroid shot I got at the doctor’s office for this hacking cough and sore throat that got me to 90%. But I was focused–so I’ve got that going for me. And you can have that going for you, too. Situations and circumstances can change your choices. . .IF you allow them to do that. Choices are within your realm. Even if you don’t make a choice, THAT is your choice. Geez, I’m sound more like Andy Andrews every day. . .but that’s not a bad thing.

So, on this Friday. . .what some call T.G.I.F. . . .My choice is Persistence. Today I will be joyful, hopeful, focused and persistent. You could say I will be persistently joyful. . . persistently hopeful . . . persistently focused . . . and persistently Persistent.

Persistence is a much needed quality in my Walk with Jesus. Life is filled with interruptions, obstacles, difficulties and then throw in the frequent visits of Murphy’s Law. Those who say Walking With Jesus is Easy Peasy all the time–well. . .they haven’t been walking with the Real Jesus. Without Persistence I will never see and never know what it means to live in and be a part of the Epic Saga known as The Kingdom Of God. Another reason I need to make this choice today (and every day after today) is because in our culture, Persistence is a rare commodity.

Now, I can choose to complain, whine and b…., almost let a bad word slip, about the lack of Persistence OR I can choose to be an example of Persistence. Choices made, every Choice we make has an outcome that is given birth with the Choice. Consider the outcome of each choice. . .and the outcomes are really obvious.

If I choose to complain that rather than persist, our culture quits, whines, plays the victim card, and says they are being disenfranchised. . .what has changed? The only thing changed is NOTHING. The result is I become angry, frustrated and agitated. And know what? These generations of quitters, whiners, and overly sensitive souls will continue to be quitters, whiners and overly sensitive souls. And I become either an angry man or a despondent man. In my book, neither suits me. . . and I know it doesn’t please Abba, Poppa.

But if my choice is to be Persistent, two things will happen. One thing is that I will achieve my goal. . .I will succeed at finishing a task. . .I will not be defeated by any obstacle. The other thing? Maybe, just maybe someone in this aimless culture of consistent quitters will notice my Persistence. Maybe it will make them curious about me. If they are curious about me and my Persistence, there’s a good probability they will, at the very least, THINK about quitting being a quitter.

Who knows, maybe it will even open up a conversation about that strange thing called Persistence! Then things will begin to be different, not the same. If 2 of us are Persistent then we can reach maybe 2 more quitters who engage us in open conversation and they decide to be Persistent. Now we have 4 of us who are Persistent. And maybe the 4 of us becomes 8. . .then 16. . .then 32. . .get the point now?

So today my choice is Persistence. Seems like a good choice to add to the others. . .don’t you think? Oh. . .one other thing: Persistently love God with all your heart. Persistently love others the way Jesus loves you. And Persistently make sure all the glory goes to Him. . .Persist!

It’s Hard To Live In Exile And Harder To Do What God Says About Your Place Of Exile

Do your circumstances feel like you are living in exile? You work at a job that under-appreciates your work, and under-pays you for overworking you. You have been terminated from work and the pile of bills is now a mountain of bills. Your spouse has left you for more excitement that you were able to provide. You wish your spouse WOULD leave because all they do is belittle you and tell you all that you do wrong. You look in the mirror with great disgust at the person looking back at you because you hate what you see. The doctor prescribes a series of chemo and radiation treatments because of your cancer. The church you attend is embroiled in political and in-house bickering and fighting. Your parents lament on a daily basis on how you could have done better. The air conditioner, refrigerator, and hot water heater all died the same day. The Sheriff’s Department just posted an eviction notice on your door.

Now, add to all of that the cultural and political wars going on in the good old U.S. of A. The news channels blaring away at all the upheaval, and the violence that is happening every day, all day long. I don’t know about you, but there have been many moments where I felt like I was in exile.

Feelings of exile have a long history. In many cases, it was more than a feeling, it was a national reality. Jeremiah lived in such a time–a literal time of exile. And Jeremiah has something to tell them–something God wanted them to know.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

Jeremiah 29:2-7 (NLT)

They are living in a foreign land, under foreign rule, with foreign customs and a pagan culture. Pagan Culture–does that resonant with you? It resonates with me as a Kingdom Citizen. And I hear a lot of voices that seem to echo the same sentiments. Face it, as Followers of Jesus our culture neither likes nor embraces Kingdom Truth. This time has been appropriately called “The Post Christian Era”. Values of the Kingdom of God are considered outdated. And add to this, that many who professed to be Followers of Jesus looked nothing at all like Jesus. In fighting and self righteousness turned many away from becoming Followers of Jesus.

So, how do we live in a time and place that feels like exile? It seems to me, that the words of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies spoken to Jeremiah still apply today. Look carefully again at what God instructs those exiles to do:

Build homes, and plan to stay

Establish your allegiance and loyalty to Jesus and God’s Kingdom. Be that city on a hill, that candle on the candlestand.

Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 

Be a producer of the positive wherever you are. Do not lower yourself to engage in the bitter fighting that is so entrenched in this culture. Bring good things into your part of this dysfunctional culture.

Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!

Reproduce Kingdom Values within your family, your circle of close friends, at work–wherever you happen to be. Be the example and encourage others to be that example. You reproduce those Kingdom Values as you teach others–and they see them verified in your daily life.

So far so good, right? Challenging, yes–but doable. But there’s more–and it’s going to be a lot more difficult.

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile.

Did you just see that? Work for the peace and prosperity of those people who make us feel like we are in exile. It’s simple, really simple. If you are on the left–help and pray that the right would be at peace and experience prosperity. For you on the right–help and pray that the left would be at peace and experience peace. If you are a centrist, then do the same for both the left and the right.

It doesn’t seem fair or just that God would tell us to do that. But…don’t miss that next line from the passage: “the city where I sent you into exile.” God sent Judah into exile because of their disobedience. And for us today? God sends us into the places of exile because they need to be reclaimed and restored to the Kingdom of God. Their reason for exile was disobedience–and our reason is Obedience–obedience to God’s call to wage spiritual warfare against Satan.

Oh, and that last line: “Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” OK, do you want to see our culture transformed? The pray for their Shalom. That is the Hebrew word used. It means, among many things, peace. Pray for the opposite side from you to do well, be strong and have inner peace. If you don’t, well, God said what the outcome will be: You will NOT be strong or be well or have peace.

Your welfare rests upon what you want for others, even those on the opposite side. Followers of Jesus, we are in exile–but we are in exile for a purpose and a reason–to bring The Kingdom Of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” If you want some practical advice on how to accomplish this, well…listen to Paul in Romans 12:21

As long as you are agitated and mad at your culture, nothing will change and you will be miserable. It’s not easy to do–it’s not meant to be easy. It’s meant to cause you to turn to God, seek His Holy Spirit and rely on The Spirit. It doesn’t make sense to do it this way. But…it does work!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him…and it does when you pray for the peace of your enemies.

RECALCULATING: HAVE YOU ARRIVED?

We began this series by stating the obvious:  That our culture is in deep turmoil, unconstrained chaos, and relentless fear.  It is fueling irritation, aggravation, and frustration that is creating the toxic environment of Despair.  And without a radical change of direction, a Divine Recalculating Moment, it will only become worse.

When we use that navigational tool called GPS and follow its directions, we see those long awaited words:  You Have Arrived At Your Destination.  Global Positioning System works when the receiver connects with 3, preferably 4 satellites.  Those satellites then triangulate that signal and then sends it back to the receiver.  GPS needs the reference points from those satellites.  Without those 3-4 satellites, it just doesn’t work.  

But sometimes, GPS is wrong.  In my experiences, there are times when my GPS says You Have Arrived At Your Destination, I’m looking at an open field.  Or, I don’t see what I’m looking for.  Sometimes, I see it but it’s across the road.  Those GPS systems are not always correct and can make us feel even more lost than before we started the trip.

And when our Spiritual Navigation system is off, it’s even more so.  Every person, without exception, has a certain set of Values, Ideas And Beliefs.  Each person is on a journey to a destination defined by those values, ideas and beliefs.  The values, ideas and beliefs are the reference points that ultimately determines their destination, tells us when and where to turn, and defines when we have arrived.

Without the right Reference Point, we will always end up at the wrong place…and this is where our culture is at.  Life on earth has an intended Destination.  Yes, ultimately Heaven, but there’s a Destination for us here on earth.

If You Can Remember Only One Thing, This Is It: 

Our Destination Is To Become Peculiar.  

There is only one people in the Church–God’s own people.  The church does not have a ministry; it is ministry; it does not have a mission; it is mission.

Without a Recalculating Moment Of Heart And Purpose, we will journey farther and farther away from the heart of God—and the only life our hearts long for.  This is the last in the series and there’s a word I’ve been using throughout.  That word is Peculiar, and I could not end this series without taking a look at what it means to be peculiar.

The only way we can arrive at our spiritual destination is to have the correct reference points.  Now, think back to those satellites.  Their position is used to determine your position.  But, if their position is off, their orbit is not in the right place, then the information it delivers you will be wrong.

In our Spiritual journey, to live the life we are created for, it’s absolutely essential that those Reference Points are in the right place.  I’m not talking today about how to be peculiar.  This is not another how to sermon.  The Christian walk is more than just knowing how to more than just a mechanical response to God’s call. 

When our response to God is mechanical we lose our excitement and start looking for another fix-it-upresponse.  So instead of talking out how to be peculiar I want to talk about being peculiar.  I think you will see that the difference is more than subtle.  Let’s Read 1 Peter 2:1-10…

1 “So get rid of all evil behavior.  Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple.  He was rejected by people, but He was chosen by God for great honor.

5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.  What’s more, you are his holy priests.  Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. 6 As the Scriptures say,

“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.”

7 Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given Him.  But for those who reject Him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”

And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”  They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.

10 “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

These Christians knew what Peter was talking about.  Once they had been No People, just ethnic and cultural groups that could be classified as heathen.  Among them were also small pockets of Jews. They understood Peter.  Once they had been no people.  They had been proud and self-sufficient—and lost— but now they had become the recipients of God’s mercy. 

This is not some new insight on Peter’s part.  It comes right out of Hosea 2:23; Peter takes this and runs with it—he begins to apply title upon title on this “No People” who had become redeemed by the grace of God.  

  • No People are now Chosen People.
  • No People are now Royal Priests.
  • No People are now A Holy Nation.
  • No People are now God’s Very Own Possession.

This is what it looks like to be “peculiar”.  I know that’s a word we don’t like to use to describe ourselves.  I mean, who really wants to be “peculiar”?  Well…we should want to be “peculiar”.  Think about what this word means:  “characteristic of only one person, group, or thing; different from the usual or normal”.  If the confusion, chaos and hatred in our culture is ever going to change—Then We’ve Got To Unashamedly Embrace Being Different From The Usual And The Norm.   

To be different from the usual and norm that floods Facebook and the news, then we need that Recalculating Moment that will enable us to reach our destination here, and later in eternity.

There are 4 Reference Points that assure us we will Arrive At Our Destination.  These Reference Points is what will make us peculiar in this culture—and will transform us into God’s very own possession.  I want to give you these 4 Reference Points in the form of questions.  Question #1:

1.  Are You Hungry For The Word Of God?

Not what others say or write—but hungry for just God’s Word.  There are many in our culture, especially the church culture, who only want to hear what others say about God’s Word.  They want an interpretation—a spin—an angle that meets their own expectations and beliefs.

There are so many who want to speak FOR the Bible in ways that will support their Values, Ideas And Beliefs.  We don’t need more people speaking for the Bible.  We need the allow God’s Word to Speak TO us. 

We don’t need more people speaking for the Bible.  We need to allow God’s Word to Speak TO us.

There are so many who want to speak FOR the Bible in ways that will support their Values, Ideas And Beliefs.  We don’t need more people speaking for the Bible.  We need the allow God’s Word to Speak TO us.  If we are going to arrive at right destination now and in eternity, we need a reference point— The first reference point is to align our life with God and His Purpose for our life through The Word Of God!  Now, Question #2:

2.  Are You Living With Deep Joy?

Have you noticed that Values, Ideas And Beliefs of our are not producing deep joy?  Or is it just me?  People of our culture are seeking and pursuing happiness at the expense of deep joy.  Life is meant to be filled with deep joy.  Our culture has anything but deep joy.  It’s chaotic, angry and dangerous. 

We will never give the world Deep Joy living life by the Values, Ideas And Beliefs of this Culture.  Our Deep Joy comes from surrendering all of our life to Jesus—freely submitting to God’s Rule in our daily life.  Those who resent giving God Rule of their heart do not, can not, find the Deep Joy that comes from living Care-Free in God’s hands.  No heartache, no disappointment, no pain is ever greater than the freedom we find in the life surrendered to God.

Our Deep Joy comes from surrendering all of our life to Jesus—freely submitting to God’s Rule in our daily life.

Our culture needs to see us living in joy regardless of the circumstances.  Jesus describes it this way:  “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy.  Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11)  What were the things Jesus told them?  Look at Verse 5—“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”  Joy Is A Reference Point Because It’s Based On Our Relationship With Jesus, Not Our Circumstances.  And now, Question #3:

3.  Are You Experiencing High Hopes?

The social, cultural and political turmoil in our culture is crushing countless hearts.  The Values, Ideas And Beliefs of this Culture isn’t concerned with hope—it’s focused on hate.  It’s focused on what’s wrong, what’s missing, and who’s at fault.  None of this is conducive for hope—only despair.

One day Jesus was looking around at His culture.  He saw hurt, lonely, confused people—like sheep without a shepherd.  Do you know what Jesus said about the culture that is so much like ours?  It’s in Matthew 9:38 (TM)—“What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”  Our Hope should be High Because We Live For And Serve The God Who Sees Opportunities For Greatness In Every Situation And In Every Life.  Our world will never find Hope if we see our world as Hopeless. 

Our world will never find Hope if we see our world as Hopeless.

Hope That God Is Greater Than Every Human Despair Must Be Our Reference Point.  And the final Question #4:

4.  Are You Expecting The Holy Spirit To Bring Awakening And Renewal In Your Life And To Our Culture?

The Values, Ideas And Beliefs of this Culture expect us who follow Jesus to change.  At the Wednesday Bible Study we were looking at the time Peter was in prison.  He was waiting for his trial and then his execution.  The church was praying earnestly for Peter—but their faith was not overwhelming because they didn’t believe Rhoda when she said Peter was at the door. 

You and I need to live in each moment expecting the Holy Spirit to bring Awakening and Renewal first to us—and then to our culture through us.  If you don’t expect to see Awakening and Renewal now, then why are you even here this morning?

It’s time for us to act in faith to a reality that no one can see—except those who have the heart of God!  Expect The Holy Spirit To Bring Awakening And Renewal In Your Life And To Our Culture.  And this is our Fourth Reference Point.

Expect The Holy Spirit To Bring Awakening And Renewal In Your Life And To Our Culture

Being peculiar means having the right answers to these questions. These are the 4 Reference Points that will guarantee that we will Arrive At Our Destination.  Our Destination for now is Verse 9—“To Be Royal Priests, A Holy Nation, God’s Very Own Possession.”

And our Final Destination will be “Well Done, My Good And Faithful Servant.  You Have Been Faithful In Handling This Small Amount, So Now I Will Give You Many More Responsibilities.  Let’s Celebrate Together!” (Matthew25:21 NLT)  But you can never Arrive There until you Arrive Here.

Your Next Step

Know Your Reference Points:

  1. The Word Of God
  2. Deep Joy
  3. High Hope
  4. Expect The Holy Spirit To Show Up And Show Out!

Recalculating: For Such A Time As This!

Today I want us to look at another Old Testament story to see what happens when we Recalculate Our Heart To Move In The Direction Of God’s Heart.  If You Can Remember Only One Thing, This Is It:

God Is Looking For People Who Will Live Each Moment As If They Were Born Such A Time As This—Because You Are.

Today it’s the story of Esther.  It’s around 470 BC in Persia.  King Xerxes is throwing a wild party for the leading men of his nation.  On a drunken whim, the king orders his wife, Queen Vashti, to come and parade herself before all his guests.  She refuses, creating panic among the men:  What if their wives heard about it and followed her example?  Terrified at the prospect of such a thing, they convince the king to get rid of Queen Vashti.  But the king gets lonely.  Seeing his misery, the king’s advisors devise a plan. They will host a beauty pageant, gathering the most dazzling women from the kingdom, so the king can have “the pick of the litter”.  Enter Esther!

Esther’s cousin Mordecai encourages her to enter the Beauty Pageant.  But he wants her to hide something important—that she is a Jew—numbered among the people of God.  If the promoters of this beauty pageant find out she’s a Jew, they won’t ever consider her.  And he was right in that analysis.  If she wants to win the king’s favor, it will come at the price of hiding who she really is.  She’ll have to act just like everyone else.  And we know she wins.

Something happens, though, to throw all of this into jeopardy. It happens because of Mordecai’s resolve to be God’s Person.  There is a man in the kingdom named Haman, who is second in command to King Xerxes.  That’s a lot of power, but it’s never enough for men like Haman.  

He not only wants power; he wants others to flatter him, and inflate his already oversized ego.  That’s Haman—powerful, insecure, and a threat.  Whenever he passes by, everyone must bow down to him in an elaborate tribute.  But there’s Mordecai—so insistent that Esther conceals her true identity—decides this business with Haman has gone on long enough.  It was time to stand up and be counted.  Mordecai refuses to bow down.

Haman is furious with his actions and he hatches a plot.  He goes to King Xerxes and informs him of a people—God’s people—who are causing problems.  He convinces the king that it’s in the king’s best interests to completely annihilate them by genocide.  He even offers to finance the project!  Without blinking an eye, the king gives a nod of approval.  Posters are soon plastered all over the kingdom, saying:  Kill all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on March 7 next year.  When Mordecai hears the news, he does what any good Jew would do—he repents.  

He puts on sackcloth and covers himself with ashes—the clothing and gestures of repentance, and goes through the city, weeping and crying.  Why offer repentance?  Hasn’t the wrong been done by Haman?  Mordecai repents because he knows he has wronged God by trying to hide.  To borrow the words of James 4:4, Mordecai realizes that “If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

When Esther hears about her cousin’s behavior, she is concerned. She doesn’t care what’s going on; she just wants him to stop it.  She sends him a message to stop it.  But Mordecai refuses to turn away from his repentance.  So she sends another message.  Let’s pick up the story in Esther 4:13-17

13 Mordecai sent this reply to Esther:  “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die.  Who Knows If Perhaps You Were Made Queen For Just Such A Time As This?”  15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me.  Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  My maids and I will do the same.  And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king.  If I must die, I must die.” 17 So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

Esther 4:13-17 (NLT) (emphasis mine)

At the risk of racing through this amazing story, let me sum it up quickly.  She gets her opportunity and invites both Haman and the king to 2 special banquets.  Haman is delighted—proud and puffed up to know he is the only person chosen to attend the gathering alongside the king.  His spirits are quickly cooled because he saw Mordecai again and again he refused to bow down before Haman.  When he came home, he was complaining to his wife and family, “I’m the only one invited to the banquet the Queen has prepared for the King, and this, this heathen Mordecai dishonors me.”  So, his wife suggests he erect a tall pointed pole and impale Mordecai on it.  Well, Haman is happy again.  Haman thinks life is good again.

But the King couldn’t sleep the night before the banquet, so he had some servants read to him from the archives of his life as King.  I don’t know if he was wanting his ego stroked or if he thought the reading would be so boring he would fall asleep.  But then he hears about how a Jew named Mordecai had saved his life by revealing an assassination plot. 

Then he found out he had never properly recognized Mordecai for this, so he decides to honor him.  What happens next is pure irony—God is the Master of Irony!  The King sees Haman who is about to ask permission to kill Mordecai, and asks Haman how should someone really special be honored.  Haman, thinking it’s himself the King wants to honor says, “Give him one of your royal robes, give him one of your horses to ride and have a parade to tell everyone how wonderful this man is (wink-wink).  The king says, “Great idea!  Go get Mordecai ready for the parade, and you lead the parade telling everyone what a great man Mordecai is.” 

This humiliates Haman, but that evening it gets worse.  Esther then pleads for her people’s lives and reveals Haman’s evil plot and this angers the king.  Xerxes storms out, Haman falls on Esther’s couch to ask for mercy just when the King comes back in.  He gets the wrong idea, and has Haman impaled on the same pole he had built for Mordecai. 

Since the King cannot undo his decree to have the Jews killed, he gives another decree—they can defend themselves and their families.  Mordecai is then promoted to Haman’s position.  Let’s see if we can learn why The 21st Century Church needs a Change of Direction and Change of Heart, For Such A Time As This:

1.  We Are Living In A Time Of Moral Confusion.

If I or any preacher were to say:  “We are living in a time of immorality!”, there would be a loud echo of “AMEN!”  And we could cite instance after instance of why this would be true.  No doubt about it, immorality is in overabundance.  But I’m not so convinced the real issue of our culture is the immorality—as much as it is the Moral Confusion which exists.  The Crisis of our culture is the way it defines morality. 

The word definition of morality is simple:  “It Is The Principles That Mark The Distinction Between Right And Wrong Or Good And Bad Behavior.”  Our culture defines morality in contextual ways, rather than by Truth.  Here’s what I am trying to say.  Our culture defines right and wrong based on context, on the settingIf it’s OK in one setting, then it’s not immoral.

And it’s frustrating for us who identify as followers of Jesus.  Our culture needs to see a Morality, of what is good or bad, right or wrong, in us.  I’m not talking about is it right or wrong to have a drink or divorce or the lottery or cut grass on Sunday—I’m talking about us living a full and joyful life by the standard God has given us. 

You and I are born for such a time as this—To Show How Meaningful Life Is When We Live It By God’s Standard.  This Chaos Is Alienating People—And We Can Be The Ones God Uses To End This Chaos.

2.  We Are Living In A Season Of Instability!

Without a solid foundation to define morality—the end result is that instability of character within people’s lives.  The Merriam-Webster Learner’ Dictionary defines Character this way: 

“The Way Someone Thinks, Feels, And Behaves; A Set Of Qualities That Are Shared By Many People In A Group; A Set Of Qualities That Make A Place Or Thing Different From Other Places Or Things.

Merriam-Webster Learner’ Dictionary

Focus on that last part:  A Set Of Qualities That Make A Place Or Thing Different From Other Places Or Things.  The instability of our culture is the direct result of the lack of being different from other places and things.  Most people don’t follow Jesus say that it’s because they don’t like the church.

And when they ask what the church is, they identify us by things we are against.  Character of heart and life isn’t measured by just what we are against—it is measured more by what we are for

  • We are FOR unconditional love. 
  • We are FOR people being treated with respect and dignity.
  • We are FOR values that build people up. 
  • We are FOR kindness. 
  • We are FOR compassion—love in action. 
  • We are FOR Grace and Mercy expressed as Forgiveness And A Commitment To A Life Of Holiness! 
  • We are FOR eliminating human distinctions. 
  • HOPE For A Life That Is Meaningful, Fulfilling And Abundant! 

This is why you are born for such a time as this.  To bring all this and so much more, through the Kingdom of God—as seen in you.  And this leads me to my last point:

3.  We Are Living In A Time Of Despair.

The Lack Of A God-Centered Morality, The Absence Of Christ-Like Character Fuels The Despair That Is Consuming Our Culture In The U.S. 

Watch the news, look at Washington D.C., look at what’s happening in the streets.  It’s not the fault of the Democrats, nor the Republicans.  It’s the despair that’s fueling all of it.  No one sees or senses any hope for anything better.  So they argue and fight and point the finger of blame.  They become fearful and angry at each other. 

All because of the absence of one thing:  Hope!  Democrats can’t create hope.  Republicans can’t create hope.  Socialists can’t create hope.  Government can’t create hope.  And the hate, anger and frustrations of the people can’t create hope.  These only intensify the despair.  Hope is missing.  Why?

It’s the failure of so many in churches who have either forgotten, or never understood, That WE Have Been Born, WE Have Been REBORN For Such A Time As This. Despair is ripping apart the fabric of our nation and world. 

We Need A Recalculating Moment To See That We Are Born And Reborn For Such A Time As This.  To Bring Moral Clarity, Lasting Character And Living Hope. 

A Day Comes When We’ve Got To Stand, Be Counted, And Fight To Proclaim What We’ve Been Entrusted With.  Today Is That Day. 

We should know we will never win a pagan culture by mimicking it and all it values.   The strongest influence we can bring in these chaotic and desperate times is to simply be peculiar—to be, with neither pride nor apology, followers of Jesus. 

Our call, God’s vision for this place, will reveal the character of Jesus—a character saturated with love, mercy, grace and compassion—a character that just doesn’t point out what’s wrong with others, but sees their hurts and their needs—a character that does more than see their needs, but does something to meet those needs.

Your Next Steps is to accept these 3 truths and live them out:

1.  The People Of God Do Not Succeed In A Pagan World By Hiding Their True Identity.

2. You Can Win Admiration By Conforming To The Standards Of The Age, But It Will Take You Further Away From Having A Heart For God.

3.  We Have An Enemy Who Is Out To Destroy Us, And No Amount Of Hiding Will Save Us.

Did you catch Mordecai’s last warning to Esther?

“Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive.  If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, Help And Deliverance Will Arrive For The Jews From Someplace Else; but you and your family will be wiped out.”

God is at work bringing help and deliverance to this vast spiritual wasteland.  The issue for you and for all of us, will it be through some other people, or will we rise For Such A Time As This?

THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE!

(Final message in the series “YAHWEH–The I Am Sayings Of Jesus”

The Eternal Name—The Name for all generations to remember—The Name that God has chosen to reveal to us all is YAHWEH—I Am!  His Name says that He exists as Himself.  He isn’t shaped or twisted by our own ideas and conceptions.  Whatever it is that we may think about HIM, doesn’t change who He really is.  Whatever you say about God doesn’t change Him.  Whatever you may believe about God, does not change the identity and nature of our God.

He is who HE says He is; not necessarily who we think He is and not necessarily who others say He is.  He exists as He truly is

  • In Indescribable Glory,
  • Immeasurable Power,
  • Overwhelming Holiness,
  • Pure, Uncontaminated Beauty
  • And All This In Awesome And Breathtaking Majesty. 

He has never been weaker nor stronger than He is right now in eternity, nor will He ever be.  Think about the changes that have happened in the history of humanity.  We have gone from walking everywhere to riding a horse to an automobile, to flying across the skies, even made the journey to the moon and back.

Think about all the changes that have happened just in your lifetime.  Yet, God has never ever changed—not even a fraction.  He Is Constant And Consistent To The Point We Really Cannot Describe All That He Is.  This Is The Eternal Name For All Generations To Remember. 

As we have been looking through John’s Gospel, Jesus has been publicly using His Eternal Name.  And it has caused a lot of discomfort and anger with the Pharisees because we are not supposed to say that name—even though God wants His Eternal Name remembered by all generations. 

They felt like, “We can’t have this guy going around calling himself God.  We’ve got to put a stop to it.  We’ve tried to be reasonable.  We’ve tried to show that He’s a phony, but many don’t believe us.  We must put an end to Jesus!”  So they begin to formulate their plans, but what they don’t understand is that God already has a plan.  They want to wait until AFTER Passover, but God has ordained that this Passover is THE time for THE perfect sacrifice that will end all sacrifices. And now, it is time for THE Passover.  Jesus has gathered His inner circle in that upper room.  Everything is in place and they think it’s just another Passover.  They know the ritual; after all, they grew up with it.  But Jesus now changes everything.  In public He had been using the Eternal Name, and now in a very private moment, He uses it once more.  Let’s turn to John 14:1-7 (NLT)

 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said.  “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”   Jesus told him, “I am The Way, The Truth, And The Life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

All that Jesus said He is–The Great I Am—The Living Bread, The Light Of The World, The Door, The Good Shepherd—is so true—truer than you may even realize.  But here, in a private and intimate moment, Jesus reveals the Deepest Part Of The Heart Of God.  He Doesn’t Say This In Public, But Rather To Those Hearts That Are Longing For God’s Heart. 

This leads me to The one thing you need to remember:   You Do Not Follow Jesus In Order To Love Him.  You Love Him In Order To Follow Him.  

Love comes first—before the following.  But—If you follow Jesus in order to love Him, it becomes a list of rules and things to do. This way becomes legalistic.  And after a while, you either love the rules more than you love Him; or you will give up. 

But…if you love Jesus first—it gives you the desire to follow Him.  Here is how it works:  You see His beauty and that Beauty pulls you in deeper.  Then You Begin Seeking His Beauty, And His Heart So That You May Be Transformed BY His Beauty INTO His Beauty.  In Other Words, You Follow Him!

In this very sacred moment, Jesus says something to every heart.  For inside every heart is that deep, deep longing to be near to and close to God’s very heart.  The heart knows what the heart needs but the problem is we don’t always listen to it.  Many try to ignore it, but the longing is still there.  Others try to fill it with everything else, but the heart is still empty.  Jesus Knows What Their Hearts Long For, Thirst For, Hunger For—So He Reveals What Every Heart Around That Table Longs To Know.  And it is true in your heart.  Listen with your heart what Jesus is saying to it.

1.  He Is The Way!

When Jesus said He is The Way He means He is the ONLY way to find release from the guilt and shame of our sin.  And we have to get rid of all that sin because it’s standing in the way of us entering God’s heart and God entering our heart.  He Is That Entrance Into Freedom From All That Holds Us Back, All That Puts Us In Bondage, And All That Chains Us To Fear And Condemnation. Jesus is the only entrance to God’s heart.  Contrary to the view of many, there are not many ways to discover God.

There is only ONE way and that way is Jesus.  And The Way is a Journey, and The Journey is first to fall in love with God.  Not what He does.  And not by falling in love with His ways.  Falling in love with God—with HIM!  Being captivated by His Glory—which is His love for you.  Until you see HIS Glory—you cannot love Him the way He deserves to be love Once we are in love with HIM, then He is The Way that leads us into that Holy Journey with God.  The Way means that God invites us into this Journey with Him.

  • It Is A Journey Filled With Adventure And Excitement Where God Uses Us To Reveal Jesus To Our World.
  • It’s A Journey That Can Be Difficult At Times, Especially When Things Don’t Work Out Like We Hoped, And Even When We Can’t See Where This Journey Will Lead Us. 
  • It’s The Journey That Requires We Surrender Control To Him.  It’s The Journey Where We Will Be Stretched At Times. 
  • It’s That Journey Where At Times The Only Thing We Can Hold On To Is God Himself.  It May Even Be Frightening To Some. 
  • But It’s Not A Journey We Make Alone.  Jesus Is Right Here With Us Every Step Of The Way.

Jesus didn’t say “I am the pew.”  But many treat Jesus that way; confident and comfortable in the pew.  But Jesus didn’t say that, He said, “I Am The Way!”  He invites us to travel this road called Grace, and it’s a road that is meant to be a life time journey.  Along the journey we will see, do and experience so many things.  The journey at the end will be different than at the beginning.  But one thing will remain throughout this lifetime journey:  Jesus walks every step with us.  It’s the journey with Jesus where He leads us to wherever and whatever He wants for us.

2.  He Is The Truth

Since it is The Journey that Jesus invites us into, we need some guideposts, road signs that help us keep us on the right path for The Journey.  And here is what it looks like to call Jesus The Truth.

  • The Truth Is He Loves Us Unconditionally And Completely. 
  • The Truth Is He Has Saved Us And Forgiven Us Completely And Not A Single Sin Brought Under His Blood Exists In His Heart Or Memory.
  • The Truth Is He Lives In Us To Empower Us. 
  • The Truth Is He Gives Us A Holy Calling And Task That He Wants And Expects Us To Do. 
  • The Truth Is He Holds Us Accountable To Share The Grace He Has So Extravagantly Given To Each Of Us.
  • Truth Is We Live Each Moment Of Each Day By And IN The Truth. 
  • The Truth Is That People Are More Important Than Things—Jesus Did Things For People Even If It Violated The Way Things Had Always Been Because People Are More Important Than Things. 
  • The Truth That We Must Grow In This Grace—Grow More Confident—Grow Wiser About The Truth—Applying The Truth In Real Life Situations.  “What Would Jesus Do?” is more than a cute saying for shirts, bracelets and bumper stickers, it’s the way we live and respond to every situation life throws at us. 
  • The Truth Is Persistent And Consistent For All Times, Places And People.  It Doesn’t Change Or Fluctuate With The Times, Nor The Culture.
  • The Truth Is That Service And Sacrifice Are Part Of The Way. Service And Sacrifice Are What Truly Marks Us As Disciples Of Jesus And Members Of The Body Of Christ.
  • This Truth—Lived By Jesus Every Day He Walked This Earth As One Of Us—Is The Anchor For Every Age, Every Generation, And Every Moment Of Every Day We Walk This Earth. 
  • Jesus As The Truth Is More Than A Creed Or Belief.  It is the convictions that hold us, hold us closely when we need assurance of God’s love—and that challenges us to follow Jesus in The Way!  The Truth Is That Jesus Is The Alpha And Omega, The First And The Last, The Beginning And The End. And whatever it is we do as believers in Christ, makes each day all about him and not anything about us!

Truth isn’t a weapon we use against others.  It’s the discipline that reminds us that we are in love with God—and that God is in love with us.

3.  He Is The Life!

The Life gives the journey meaning.  It is The Life that should be the force that makes our feet hit the floor every morning.  Jesus is The Life that brings us to life with a passion and excitement to be a part of what God is doing in our world. 

Some people are waiting to die.  They have given up on the excitement and adventure of life.  If Jesus is really in your heart, you don’t have to wait to die to experience life, but you can start living, really living with that sense of joy, purpose and anticipation of all that God wants to show you every day.  Jesus didn’t suffer and die on that Cross for you to be sad and miserable; cranky and whiney; to grumble and complain.    

His Life Is About Life That Has An Eternal Meaning In The Here And Now.  Jesus wants you to live and breathe, not exist.  And The Life is offered to you through The Gift—the Gift of Perfect Love when Jesus went to the Cross to die for you.  But He didn’t just die for you—He conquered death for you, too. 

And the Resurrection Life isn’t just for that day when the body dies.  The Resurrection Life Is For Here And Now. It begins with the Journey.  And the Journey begins with falling love with God.  God is in love with YOU.  Not with what you can do or ought to do.  He is in love with YOU right now!  Jesus is The Way into that love.  Truth reminds us of this—that God is in love with us.  Truth isn’t a set of creeds—it is more—Truth is a Person—Jesus Christ—And this makes Truth a Love Relationship.  This Is The Life!

Life is knowing we are loved by God—being in love with God—in the way that causes us to be His Agents, Agents of Redemption for the world.

Next Steps

  1. Are you simply waiting to die?  Do you feel that life has become too hard to do anything significant?  Do you think it was easy for Jesus to forgive the crowd while hanging on that cross?  Stop waiting to die—decide today to begin living.
  2. What are you doing that is life-giving to others?  Have you heard of that TV series The Walking Dead?  It’s about the Zombie Apocalypse.  Some call it science fiction.  It’s truer than you may realize.  The Walking Dead are all around us.  The thing is they don’t look like those zombies on TV—they look like us.  But they are dead on the inside.

Acts Of WHO???

Well, here I go again on another Journey. It seems I’ve become a bit slack in my spiritual discipline of reading the Word. I was looking at my Bible on the desk and it was like I heard, “You know, it’s been a while since we talked. Don’t you think it’s time to catch up?” So I reached over and took it; then I found me a journal to write in, and an ink pen. That’s all: the Bible, a clean sheet of paper and a pen. No commentaries and not even Google to help me look up words and thoughts. Just me, The Book, and of course, the Holy Spirit.

Speaking of which (the Holy Spirit, that is), I’m wondering right now why did I have to have all those commentaries (because I started this journey with Jesus before the internet was so readily accessible)? And why do so many today have this book, that website, that author along side THAT Book? Over the past several years, I discovered to my amazement, that the Holy Spirit actually helps me understand what I’m reading! Who could have ever imagined such a thing? Well, God could.

Back to The Book. Where would I ever begin such a journey? There are so many books to choose from. One would think I would have to spend a lot of time deciding which book to begin with. This time, I had no trouble. He, the Holy Spirit, whispered, “The Book of Acts.” So that’s what I’m doing. I’m not reading a chapter a day–nothing against people who read the Book that way–just reading until I sense Him saying, “Let that sink in for a while.”

And this morning my Companion and Comforter said, “You know, you’ve been talking, I mean talking a lot, about starting back to regular blogging. Why not share what you’re discovering? After all, I did give you that gift of writing.” So who am I to argue with the Wisdom of The Ages.

Today’s entry is simply about the title applied to The Book Of Acts. It’s been titled “The Book Of The Acts Of The Apostles.” For many, many years I’ve insisted that those earliest editors misnamed this Book. I wish right now I could borrow Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean and go back to that first group of editors when they came up with this title and ask: “What are you thinking? It’s NOT the acts of the Apostles. It’s the Acts of the Holy Spirit in surrendered people!” Gee whiz, guys. You’re better than that! Think, man, then listen to that title. A bit short-sighted, don’t you think?”

Why do I think that it’s an inaccurate title? I’m so glad you asked me that question. To read Dr. Luke’s stories with the title “Acts of the Apostles” taints your thought processes, and it’s easy to conclude that what happened then, was “limited to a handful of select special people and not really for me or my time.” Calling it the Acts Of The Apostles limits what this Book can do in you and I.

First, it relegates it just another History Book. Now, I love History more than most. I blame it on my High School History teacher Ronald Pettus. He is a collector of artifacts, many of which he brought into the classroom. He filled my little mind with more than memorizing dates–but left me hungering to know more about the people and the times. This is a priceless tool in understand THE BOOK! If we see Acts are only a history book of a select few people, we’ve missed the point of Dr. Luke’s work.

Second, we slam the door shut to the potential of the Holy Spirit using folks like us. There’s more going on here than dates and geography. If we agree that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are all about Jesus (and they are), then Acts MUST be all about The Holy Spirit, and it is. Each Amen on that? The Book of Acts opens up with Jesus telling those first disciples about, guess who? The Holy Spirit! And in Chapter 2, all Heaven breaks loose on earth. And it all happens because of and through the power of The Holy Spirit!

Now, I want to add a little side bar comment about the current state of the church culture. For the last century, more emphasis is put on human understanding and abilities rather than The Holy Spirit. I see it in my Tribe as Progressives try to tell me they know more about what God wants and expects than the Bible. Add to this that so many in churches want to hear what someone else says about the Bible rather than read it for themselves.

The result has been that a powerful Stallion has been reduced to a gelding. People are following today, an impotent message about an impotent life. And once again, Jesus weeps. So staring tomorrow, I will share from my personal journal some of the insights and wonder I am discovering as The Teacher, teaches me.

And remember, Love God with all your heart. Love others and way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

What Happened To Being Friendly?

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Good morning.  I want to share something I learned from God’s classroom at the beach.  Yesterday the Holy Spirit excitedly whispered in my ear, “Did you notice that?”  And I replied, “Well, yes I did!  It’s wonderful that personal smiled and said to me ‘Good morning!’  You don’t see much of that in the ordinary world.”  I didn’t know that person.  Didn’t know where they were from, what their politics were, what their social status was, and I didn’t even know what college football team they supported.

It was the norm to see people smiling, saying hello, good morning, good afternoon.  and making conversation with strangers.  One man pointed out to us that there was a small stingray near us and informed us that he also saw a couple of jellyfish.  Normally you would not see this type of interaction between complete strangers.  But in that moment, that location, there were no strangers.  Simply people sharing that bond of being at the beach

We went to Lulu’s, a well known local eating establishment, last evening for seafood.  You know you can’t go to the beach without eating seafood.  We went early to avoid waiting in line.  There were several people who had our same idea.  There were lots of conversations going on.  Smiles were everywhere and lots of laughing.  It was then that I noticed 1 table, a family it appeared to be.  There was not much talking….no smiles….looking almost miserable in a place full of smiling, friendly people.  They definitely did not fit in with the rest of the crowd.  I wondered if they had brought their own misery with them, instead of leaving it at home.

We were in an environment that was counter-cultural to much of normal living–the exception being that one family.  Typically one doesn’t encounter this type of friendliness in the ordinary every-day world.  People rarely look others in the eye, smile or engage in casual conversation.  They tend to be more guarded, even suspicious of others.  And here is the question that has rooted itself in my heart and mind:  Why aren’t people as friendly in the ordinary world as they are at the beach?

Now mind you, that I’m not accusing these friendly beach-goers as being unfriendly the rest of the time.  Hopefully they are, but if you examine the ordinary world you do not see kind of friendliness this happening.  Many are like that family at Lulu’s that was a stark contrast to the rest of that environment.  Cold, reserved, disconnected from the world that is around them.

Why?  Perhaps it is suspicion that causes us to keep others at arm’s length.  It could be fear–fear that the other person will somehow take advantage of them.  What ever the reason, we tend to be more protective “out there in the real world”.  And here is where there are many moments for the Kingdom Witness–to share a smile and be friendly because we are followers of Jesus.

Why were people so quick to flock to Jesus?  I think it must have been His smile and friendly personality.  I do not believe that Jesus looked anything like He is portrayed in “official” church art.  He looks at times too sad, too mad, and way too weak.  Would you really want to be in the presence of Sad or Mad or Pathetically Weak?  Don’t think so!  I believe Jesus looked more like artist Stephen Sawyer paints Him.  Check him out on his website:  www.art4god.com

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In this suspicious, unkind and manipulative culture, we need to be more like Jesus.  And it all begins with being kind and friendly.  Being distant and rude requires little talent and no effort.  It’s everywhere.  But…a warm smile….a good morning….a timely thank you…holding a door open for another person….letting someone go ahead of you in the check-out lane…leaving your quarter in your shopping cart at Aldi’s….and best of all, listening to people and taking the time to know them without judging them.

What happened to being friendly?  Nothing.  Being friendly is still out there.  Unfortunately it seems to be reserved for special places, like the beach.  What if we, who claim to be followers of Jesus, would do what Jesus did when He walked on His Creation as one He created?  Smile and be friendly.  The times Jesus was mad was when He had to deal with the really religious people, or with people who simply wanted Jesus to entertain them.

One of the things I am absolutely enjoying in our new appointment is the setting:  rural, small town Alabama.  Friendliness and kindness are seen more often.  Who among us wouldn’t agree that our culture needs to change–radically change.  Change happens like measles spreads in schools–one person to another person.  Would you really like to be more like Jesus?  Do something that Jesus did?  What if you decided that your part of the world is as friendly as folks at the beach?  Perhaps what would happen would be that unfriendliness would look as out of place as that family at Lulu’s.  It’s easy to make it happen–smile, be friendly, engage in conversation, listen, and get to know others.  I leave you with Proverbs 15:30 (NLT)

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart;
good news makes for good health.

Now, if you will kindly excuse me, I need to leave.  The bell has rung for class to begin.  And The Teacher doesn’t like for us to be late.  Might miss something, ya’ know.  Now get out there, Followers of Jesus and be friendly!

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Hi